Carer guide

Are you a carer? Are you supporting someone regularly in their life? Explore this great guide to make sure you get the support you need – from Carer’s Allowance to support networks to counselling to a break through respite care services – here is the ultimate guide to caring for an older loved one.

Indian couple, wife hand on husband shoulder

Am I a carer?

If you’re a family member who looks after someone you love, you may not even see yourself as a carer. But ask yourself this simple question. Do you provide ongoing extra support for someone? If the answer is yes, then you’re a carer.

You can become a carer quickly. Like when someone has a stroke. Or it can happen slowly over time and someone’s health deteriorates.

What is important is recognising your role as a carer. And understanding you need to look after yourself in order to provide the best care possible. Am I caring for myself too? Being a carer can easily become stressful and even overwhelming. There’s every chance you’re looking after someone you love or care about like a family member. And the dynamics of that relationship have now changed. If you don’t take some time out for yourself, eat and sleep well, and keep fit and healthy and in a good frame of mind, this can really impact on your own health and the care you’re giving.

You might find yourself having big emotional swings. Or suddenly being irritated with the small things. You may start getting sick more often or losing weight. You may become anxious or stressed. These are just some of the signs that you may not be coping in your role as a carer and heading towards carer burnout.

What support can I get?

The most important thing you can do as a carer is get help when you need it. There are many professionals and organisations out there offering support. You just need to ask. So where do you look for help?

The main carer support comes from:

  • Respite care options
  • Your local GP
  • Carer support networks
  • Carer counselling services
  • Carer payments via Centrelink

Take a break with respite care

Respite Care gives you the chance to take some time off from care duties. It lets you take a breather and catch up with everyday activities or simply take a short break. It can be on an emergency basis or it can be planned.

Respite Care can be in your home, in the community or in a centre, where you take a break while the person you care for is given paid care. Here are some types of respite that you might be able to access under Government subsidised programs like home care packages or the Commonwealth Home Support Program:

  • In-home respite – a paid carer comes to the home
  • Centre-based day respite – structured group activities or outings
  • Overnight or weekend respite – ‘cottage style’, a host families home in the community
  • Community access – activities and outings in a social group

Your other respite option is residential respite care where the person you look after is given a short break in an aged care home.

Learn some more about respite care services.

Talk to your local GP

One of your best support contacts is your local GP. Make sure you let them know you are a carer. They are there to care for your physical and emotional wellbeing, and can develop a plan with you to help keep you healthy. They are your trusted advisor. It is important to always ask them questions.

Some things you may want to talk to them about are:

  • General health/sleep/diet/stress
  • Mental health support (e.g. counselling, psychiatrist)
  • Emotional support (e.g. Alzheimer’s Australia, Carer’s Association)
  • Respite care options
  • Financial assistance for carers (e.g. Centrelink – carers payments)
  • Help with caring tasks

Your GP is part of your ‘support team’. This team includes other health services such as the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT), daycare and respite care, home help, community nursing, meal services, carers’ associations and carer resource centres.

Carers Support

Groups Carer support groups can give you the opportunity to share the load with others who know what you are going through. They can also help you sort through the information you are receiving which may seem a little overwhelming at times. These support groups include:

  • Carers Australia: National program www.carersaustralia.com.au/
  • Local Carers Associations: Associations in each state (Carers WA, Carers VIC, Carers NSW, Carers QLD, Carers SA)
  • Commonwealth Carer Resource Centres: Provide referrals to services and practical information to support you in your caring role. Telephone 1800 242 636 (freecall).
  • Commonwealth Carelink Centres: Information about meal services, personal and nursing care, and home help. Telephone 1800 052 222 (freecall).
  • Commonwealth Carer Respite Centres:  For respite information telephone 1800 059 059 (freecall).

Carer counselling

Should you feel you need counselling in your role as a carer, there are many services available to you. Counselling is about talking to a trained professional who can help you address the challenges in your life. You may wish to explore ways of coping with the responsibilities of caring or help balance caring with other aspects of your life.

Financial assistance for carers

Carer payment

Provides financial support to people who are unable to work in substantial paid employment because they provide full time daily care to someone with severe disability or medical condition, or to someone who is frail aged.

Carer allowance

A fortnightly income supplement for parents or carers providing additional daily care and attention to an adult or dependent child with disability or a medical condition, or to someone who is frail aged. Carer Allowance is not income and assets tested, is not taxable and can be paid in addition to wages, Carer Payment or any other income support payment.

For full details visit: www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/subjects/payments-carers

 

Download our Carers Guide

Types of aged care assessments

Supporting someone regularly? You might be a carer. Explore this great guide to make sure you get the support you need – from Carer’s Allowance to support networks to counselling.

Find out more

Home care waitlist - what happens and what are my options?

Supporting someone regularly? You might be a carer. Explore this great guide to make sure you get the support you need – from Carer’s Allowance to support networks to counselling.

Find out more

FAQs

  • How do I choose the right home care provider?
    Shopping around for a home care provider, comparing the differences can be overwhelming and confusing. But there are some good ways to make sure you get the best deal to suit you and your family and find a good match for your lifestyle and needs. One top tip is to make sure you look at hours provided in your home care package, as well as see if the provider is a good match to your own values and wishes. Read more helpful tips in our guide to comparing home care providers.
  • How much does home care cost?
    Most home care is subsidised by the Government. For subsidised care, depending on your needs and circumstances, you might be asked to contribute to your paying for your some of your home care. How much you contribute depends mostly on your needs and your ability to contribute. Learn more about how the Government subsidy works
  • How do I get a home care package?
    We really recommend you start planning for home care when you think you might be needing a little extra help. It is good to be aware that there are wait times for Government subsidised care. We recommend as a very first step, even if you don't know what services you will be need, to arrange your aged care assessment. We can help you book this assessment or you can ask your GP to book one for you. Download our free infographic to learn how to navigate your way through the home care packages process.