What You Need to Know About Becoming a Carer for a Family Member
With the current life expectancy for Australians pegged at 83.64 years, it is expected that as more people age, more Australians will be living with chronic illness, mobility problems and other disabilities.
By 2050, it is projected that Australians aged 65 years and over will make up around one-quarter of the population as the number of younger Australians continues to decline.
On a micro level, the effects of this phenomenon can be felt as more and more family members find themselves in the role of carer for their elderly parents. Of course, the role of carer is not limited to aged care as others provide care to children with mental or physical disabilities or a physically handicapped spouse.
Does NDIS fund family members as paid carers?
In most cases, NDIS does not fund family members providing support.
This is because the NDIS does not want this situation to have a negative impact on family relationships and believe family informal supports are already an integral part of the individual’s NDIS plan. However, there are exceptions, and if you believe you have no other option, you can apply to be a paid carer as a family member.
The exceptions surrounding family members as paid support workers usually include:
- The participant has exhausted all other options
- There are religious or cultural reasons for families to provide support
- There is a risk of harm or neglect to the participant
- The participant has strong personal views regarding this matter
- The participant lives in a very remote area with no support services available to access
Family members as paid support workers
Although not eligible for funding from individuals’ NDIS plan, family members who have taken on the role of carer may be able to utilise certain government supports, especially if your caregiving role prevents you from taking on a full-time career of your own.
Non-parent carers of children
For non-parents caring for a child, such as grandparents, legal guardians and other family members, there’s a range of financial support options available depending on your specific situation:
- Child Care Subsidy
- Additional Childcare Subsidy
- Family Tax Benefit
- Double Orphan Pension
- Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme
- Child Disability Assistance Payment
More information about assistance schemes for non-parent carers is available from Services Australia.
Payments for carers in general
The government provides payments for carers of family members (including their own children) with “a severe disability, medical condition, or who is frail aged.
”Some of these financial supports include:
- Carer Payment
- Carer Allowance
- Carer Supplement
- Carer Adjustment Payment
- Child Disability Assistance Payment
- Parenting Payment
- Childcare Subsidy
Family informal supports
Informal supports is defined as any support provided by friends and family. They play an extremely important role in a disabled person’s support network. In most instances, if you were to take on the role as a personal care assistant for your family member, you would be known as one of their informal support networks.
As a family carer providing informal support to mobility challenged or mentally disabled relatives, you are bound to face some challenges, even as you strive to perform your tasks with love, understanding and kindness.
Tips for family informal supports
- As a carer, you must learn to strike a balance between wanting to indulge your family or friend and, at the same time, ensuring they stick to their treatment if they are undergoing therapy. Make sure they stick to their routine or diet, take their medicines on schedule, and attend doctor’s appointments when required.
- Be mindful of their healthcare provider’s instructions and always be vigilant for any changes — whether these are signs of improvement or deterioration.
- Be open to using technologies and any training necessary for you to become a better, more efficient and happy carer.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help — whether it’s from other family members, medical professionals or caregiving institutions — especially when you know that you can no longer provide the care your family or friend requires.
Training to be a carer or support worker
If you are committed to working as a full-time carer, the NDIS provides a list of courses for you to become NDIS qualified. These include certifications in disability support, individual support and ageing support. With these certifications, you can also embark on an in-demand and fulfilling career in disability or aged care within your local community.
Crucial considerations before becoming a carer
It is important to know what is expected of you to do the job well. It is also crucial to be aware of the challenges of being a carer, as well as sources of support, training and financial assistance.
As a carer or someone planning to become one, there are a couple of things you have to cover:
- Are you healthy and physically and mentally prepared to become a carer?
- Do you know enough about your family’s or friend’s illness or disability?
- How much time will you be able to devote to caring for them?
- Are you prepared to provide the care they require on a day-to-day basis?
These are just a few of the questions you have to consider before taking on this task.
If you decide to take on the task of caregiving, we suggest reaching out to support networks so you can have a source of reassurance and encouragement from people who are experienced in the sector or in a similar situation.
The importance of self-care
- Get around 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep every day.
- Stick to a healthy diet that includes plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, protein, healthy carbs, fats and fibre.
- Exercise regularly — even if it only means taking a 15-20 minute brisk walk.
- Take regular breaks from your daily routine by spending some time alone in a quiet place or indulging in a hobby like reading, gardening or knitting.
- Communicate how you feel with close friends or relatives, or reach out to support groups.
- Go on a short holiday to spend some precious ‘me time’, where you can switch off completely, unwind and refresh your mind, body and spirit.
- Get a massage or take a relaxing bath.
- When you feel stressed out, take deep, relaxing breaths.
- Learn to meditate.
Becoming a carer is an inspiring decision and can be a very fulfilling experience. However, it also involves a lot of challenges. By gaining as much information about becoming a carer and learning about the support needs, you will be better prepared for the challenges and lead a fulfilling career.
For more information or to ask any questions, get in touch with Centacare Employment and Training.