The care role impacts heavily on carers. Carers require care themselves. One way in which communities can support carers is through the establishment of carer support groups. Carer support groups provide a brief respite as well as peer support to carers. These support groups are often an effective form of stress management for carers.
There is no 'typical' carer. What unites carers is that they all provide unpaid, informal care and support to family or friends who have a chronic or acute condition, mental illness, disability, or who are frail aged.
A care situation can begin at the birth of a child with disabilities, it can happen suddenly as the result of an accident or can develop over a number of years as a condition worsens. Most carers feel they have no choice but to be a carer and some would rather not be in the role.
Carers may assist with tasks of daily living, and spend their days feeding, bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring, or administering medications. Others care for people who are fairly independent but need help with their finances and transport. Carers also provide emotional support day in and day out for some of the most marginalised members of our community.
Carers can be any age or ethnicity and either gender (although research shows that 71% of primary carers are female). Some carers are eligible for government benefits, while others are employed or have a private income. If you are an Australian resident, you can contact Centrelink's Disability, Sickness and Carers line on 13 2717 to find out if you qualify for a government benefit as a carer.
The care role impacts heavily on carers. Many carers are chronically tired and crave a night of unbroken sleep, a day off or an extended period with no caring responsibilities so they can regain a sense of well being. It is not uncommon for carers to forego paid work, a career and education. Carers can also miss out on important social relationships including those associated with work, recreation and leisure pursuits, which may leave them feeling very isolated.
The establishment of Carer Support Groups is one way in which a local community can support its carers. Such groups should aim to enhance carers' knowledge, skills and ability to carry out their caring role through better caring for themselves. Support groups can also explore the benefits of humour, encouraging carers to maintain good health and wellbeing through a sense of fun.