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Government needs to ensure that carer wellbeing is at the centre of reform

Author: Rob Gill
10 April 2015
  • Carers Australia CEO Ara Cresswell (centre) with co-chairs of the organisation's Parliamentary Friends Group, Dr Andrew Southcott and Sharon Claydon

Carers Australia says that with the Federal Government considering how best to develop an integrated approach to carer support, it is essential that as the invisible workforce of the health, aged, disability and mental health sectors carers must receive services in their own right.

Carers Australia CEO Ara Cresswell said that carers’ commitment to the people they looked after meant they often ignored their own wellbeing – and their health could suffer as a result.

Ms Cresswell said Carers Australia recognised that many carers balance a range of roles and welcomed the Government’s broader approach, while stressing that the current service system must be retained. This must be done in partnership with groups like Mental Health Australia, Palliative Care Australia, the Council on The Ageing and disability peaks.

“The involvement of these groups and others is necessary to ensure balance in the varied roles that carers play across so many areas of health.

“First up, it is essential that carers have direct access to respite funding, rather than through the person they are looking after; this should be a prime consideration.

“Carers must be able to access funding in their own right, enabling them to choose the respite they need. We know from experience that if funding is part of a package for the person they care for, carers often will not use it,” Ms Cresswell said.

“Providing them with separate funding is an essential element in showing carers the importance of what they are doing is acknowledged, and that they will be able to access support when and if they need it.”

The University of Wollongong (UoW) is backing a study into the awareness of carers for dementia patients of respite programs available to them.

The Respite Action Intervention for carers of people with Dementia (RAID) is a community intervention dedicated to improving carers’ knowledge of respite services and meeting their needs for ‘more than just a break’.

The lead researcher, UoW’s Associate Director of the Centre for Health Initiatives Dr Lyn Phillipson, said carers of people with dementia consistently identified provision of respite as one of their critical unmet care needs.

Despite this, the overall proportion of carers of people with dementia who use available respite and other support programs tends to be low. In Australia this is likely to be the result of numerous factors including informational, attitudinal and service-related barriers.

Dr Phillipson’s study was featured earlier this year in eHospice.

See more articles in Opinion

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