An increasing number of people are taking on care roles these days as the population ages. Some people care for loved ones with disabilities or who have suffered temporary injury. Some people care for family members who are older, or who are immobile. There are more than 700,000 Victorians who are a carer to a friend or family member – those being cared for may have a disability, a mental health issue, or a chronic health condition. It is likely that most people will at some point either have a carer role or be the one being cared for, at some point in their life.
The definition of ‘carer’ is not a clear cut thing. Some carers take on paid roles provided by care at home service providers, some are unpaid. Some people are professional carers and take on the role of people that they do not know well. Some people care for family members or friends but do not see themselves as playing the role of a carer because they see what they are doing as simply supporting someone who is close to them.
Carers help the people that they care for to remain independent, and offer support to help them stay healthy. They may support connections within the community, and they may help a person to stay active. Some carers might take on tasks that the person they are looking after cannot do well – such as going shopping or doing difficult housework. Some might help with more basic tasks such as bathing or getting dressed or reminding someone with memory issues to take their medication.
Becoming a Carer
The role of a carer is a large commitment, and it may mean that the person adopting it might have to give up some other activities or responsibilities. They may end up needing to reduce their working hours, or otherwise alter their activities and commitments. It can be a huge issue, financially, to be a carer and can also impact on social activities.
Becoming a carer is a big decision, and you should consider:
- How much care will the person need? Someone who needs round the clock care may benefit from having more than one carer
- Can you realistically support the person while they continue to do the things they love, remaining at home and in their local community? Could you access help from others?
- What are the best ways of supporting the person, and helping them to retain independence even as their needs evolve over time?
- What sort of care do they need? Do they require help with a few tasks, or help to meet basic day to day needs? Are you capable of offering the support that they need?
Being a carer is rewarding because it offers:
- The satisfaction that comes from knowing that you have helped to support someone’s quality of life
- A strengthening of the relationship
- The chance to develop your own skills
- Challenges, but the satisfaction of rising up to them
- Appreciation from those who care about the person, and from the person that you are caring for.
The challenges can include:
- Financial hardship if you find that you have to cut down your hours or give up work
- Increased physical toll and even emotional toll from having to take care of someone who depends on you
- The potential to develop health issues yourself due to the exertion or stress
- The loss of social connections and mental stimulation if you do have to give up work
- Potential feelings of resentment because of the continuous demands that carers are under, and the difficulty of taking a break
Carers have an important role to play and offer a huge benefit to society, but we should not underestimate what a difficult role it can be.