This week, 15th-21st October, marks National Carers Week 2023, an opportunity to celebrate and raise awareness about the 2.65 million carers in Australia. Carers play an essential role in our health system and are the foundation of our aged, disability and palliative community care systems.
Carers make up 11% of our population, with more than 235,000 young people taking on a caring role. Our carers represent diverse ages, cultures, experiences and responsibilities, balancing caring responsibilities with many other responsibilities. Many carers must balance working, studying, and family responsibilities and look after their physical and mental health.?
Carers are important, and ensuring they are looked after is integral to their health and those they care for. A recent wellbeing survey found that carers with good access to support had healthy levels of wellbeing compared to those with no or limited access to help.
There are millions of reasons to care! If you know someone who is a carer and struggling, there are plenty of small ways to make a difference and help. Below are some simple steps Carers Week, suggests taking to ensure carers in your life know they are valued.
1. Check in regularly
• Touch base and check in frequently.
• Encourage them to talk if that is helpful for them, talk with yourself or with a professional.
• Validate their feelings without judgement.
• Avoid talking about sensitive topics in front of the care recipients.
2. Offer a break
• Offering a break for carers can give them time to recharge.
• Running errands for them or offering to do household chores like cleaning, shopping, cooking, or laundry can give them some much-needed time back.
3. Acknowledge and appreciate
• Acknowledgement and appreciation are basic human needs. When people feel appreciated, they feel valued, benefitting their mental and physical wellbeing.
• By expressing your gratitude to those in a caring role, listening compassionately and empathetically, and verbally recognising their efforts, you are showing the person you acknowledge what they do is important and genuinely appreciate them.
4. Initiate support
• Carers often prioritise the wellbeing of the person they care for over their needs. Guilt can be a significant barrier to carers thinking about their needs, leading to inaction when taking care of their mental or physical health.
• Ask how you can help or what options might suit their support needs. Never assume you know what is best; always ask and listen.
5. Encourage self-care
• Gentle reminders to carers about caring for themselves can go a long way.
• Reminding carers to prioritise their own physical and mental health reinforces that it isn’t a selfish thing to do.
• Share helpful resources, online websites, wellbeing apps and support groups.
• If you are an employer, providing flexible working arrangements to carers can be life-changing, allowing them to balance their responsibilities better while also caring for their health.
National Carers Week has a great website full of information and resources to support carers and their integral work. They have a range of resources you can download and links to care associations around the country.
We can all do our part and care for our carers across Australia. Without them, our communities would suffer greatly. This Carers Week, make sure you reach out to the carers you know and thank them; appreciation goes a long way. There are a million reasons to care!