Senior woman and carer smiling

The growing physical, mental and financial burden on carers

Carers are an integral part of our community, providing unpaid care and support to family and friends with a disability, mental illness, chronic health condition, terminal illness, alcohol or substance misuse, and the elderly.

In the context of life insurance, the role of a carer may arise suddenly due to accident, injury or illness of a loved one. Care may be needed on a short- or long-term basis, or indefinitely. Taking on a new care role typically involves learning new skills or tasks which can be overwhelming.

Across Australia there are more than 2.65 million carers, equivalent to around 11% of the population. Almost 900,000 are primary care givers. Of these, the average age is 54 and the majority are women.1

What do carers do?

Carers provide a range of support in relation to activities of daily living (such as dressing, lifting, showering, feeding, transport) along with emotional and social support.

As such carers fulfil an enormous, often undervalued, role in the community. They also face unique demands and stressors that put their own physical and mental wellbeing at risk. Studies show carers experience more chronic health conditions and overall poor health compared to non-carers.2

Despite this, the needs of carers are often put on the backburner or neglected.

As a result of COVID-19, many carers are finding themselves under even greater stress due to factors like unavailability of support services. This has left many carers more exhausted and isolated than ever before, often being relied on for 24/7 care with no respite.

This sentiment is supported in a review by Carers NSW Australia who state: “Early evidence regarding the impacts of COVID-19 for carers across Australia indicates critical levels of carer stress that are unlikely to abate even as immediate public health risks decrease. The additional pressure on carers of uncertain information, unstable finances and changing service landscapes, coupled with the loss of social and recreational supports, places carers in a very vulnerable position.”3

Financial support for carers

Along with physical and mental health impacts, the unpaid nature of carer roles can leave carer’s facing financial stress, particularly where they’ve had to give up or reduce the number of hours worked. Here is a summary of Government entitlements that carers may be eligible for: the Carer Payment, Carer Allowance and Carer Supplement.

Caring for the carers

If you know someone who is a carer, please reach out and ask if they are okay. R U OK day on September 10 may be a good opportunity, but any day is a good day to show a carer that you care.

There are many support services available for carers. One place to start is the Carer Gateway site which can be found here

1  https://www.carersaustralia.com.au/about-carers/who-is-a-carer/
2  https://www.mentalhealthcarersnsw.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/The-Physical-Health-of-Carers.pdf
3  http://www.carersnsw.org.au/Assets/Files/COVID-19%20and%20Carers%20Briefing.pdf

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