Caring for the elderly is an act of true compassion, often driven by a deep sense of love and responsibility. In Australia, there exists a silent army of heroes, quietly and selflessly dedicating their time and energy to ensure that elderly friends and family members are taken care of. The role they play is immeasurable and without a doubt, incredibly important.

As specialists in Self-Managed Home Care Packages our team interact daily with carers and understand and appreciate more than most the difference they make in the lives of our elderly community. To every one of you – we see you, we acknowledge you and we thank you.

What is a carer?

A carer is someone who voluntarily provides care and support to another person, in this case, an elderly family member, friend, or acquaintance – without financial compensation. They are different from paid support workers or aged care workers.

Some humbling statistics

Australia is home to approximately 2.65 million carers who provide care to those with a disability, long-term illness or the elderly.  This represents approximately 11% of the population.

Of these, almost half care for an aging parent, spouse or elderly loved one.

Unpaid carers wear many hats

Unpaid carers engage in a wide range of activities to ensure the comfort and well-being of the elderly person under their care. Some of the more common activities include:

Personal care: this includes assistance with bathing, dressing, grooming and mobility.

Household tasks: carers often take on household chores such as cooking, cleaning and grocery shopping.

Medication management: carers ensure that medications are taken as prescribed and on schedule.

Transportation: many carers arrange and provide transport for things like medical appointments and social outings.

Emotional support: carers often provide companionship, empathy, and a listening ear – all crucial to effective caregiving.

Advocacy: carers may act as advocates, ensuring the voice and wishes of the person in their care are heard.

The challenges of being a carer

Being a carer can be incredibly rewarding, but it also comes with a range of challenges. These vary depending on the caregiver’s situation and the needs of the person they are caring for. Here are some common challenges associated with being a carer:

1. Emotional Stress: Carers often experience high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression due to the emotional toll of caregiving. Witnessing a loved one’s suffering or decline in health can be distressing.

2. Physical Demands: Providing care can be physically exhausting, especially if the person being cared for has mobility issues or complex health needs. Lifting, assisting with personal care, and managing medications can take a toll on the carer’s health.

3. Financial Strain: Many carers face financial difficulties. Caregiving may require reduced working hours or leaving the workforce altogether, leading to a loss of income. The costs associated with medications, equipment, and modifications to the home can also add up.

4. Isolation: Carers often become socially isolated as they have less time for social activities and may feel uncomfortable discussing their caregiving role with friends or family.

5. Balancing Responsibilities: Juggling caregiving with other responsibilities, such as work, parenting, and household duties, can be overwhelming and lead to burnout.

6. Lack of Training: Many carers have little to no training in providing medical or personal care, which can result in stress and uncertainty.

7. Health Impact: The demands of caregiving can negatively affect the carer’s own health. They may neglect their own medical needs or experience physical health problems due to the stress and physical demands of caregiving.

8. Loss of Personal Time: Carers often have limited personal time, which can lead to a loss of hobbies, interests, and leisure activities they once enjoyed.

9. Navigating the Healthcare and Aged Care Systems: Coordinating medical appointments, managing medications, and understanding the healthcare and aged care systems can be challenging and overwhelming.

10. Uncertainty about the Future: Many carers worry about the future and what will happen to the person they care for when they are no longer able to provide care.

11. Guilt and Self-Neglect: Many carers feel guilty if they take time for themselves or prioritise their own needs. This can lead to self-neglect and burnout.

12. Loss of Independence: Carers may feel that their own independence is compromised as they become more focused on the needs of the person they are caring for.

Coping Strategies and Support

There are a number of strategies and supports available to carers to help safeguard their own health and wellbeing.  These include:

Support Groups

Joining a caregiver support group can be comforting and provide valuable advice as individuals share experiences with others who understand their situation.

Self Care

Carers should remember to take care of their own physical and emotional health. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep are key.

Respite Care

Taking advantage of respite care services can provide a break. These programs offer temporary care for loved ones, allowing caregivers to rest and recharge.


Caregivers should not hesitate to ask for help from friends, family, or neighbours. Even small tasks can add up, and sharing the load can be helpful.

Financial Assistance

Being a carer can often result in financial stress due to having to reduce working hours or stopping work entirely. This is where exploring financial support programs available for carers, such as the Carer Payment, Carer Allowance or Carer Supplement provided by the Australian government can be helpful.

Home Care Packages

A Home Care Package is financial assistance provided to an elderly person to allow them to live independently at home. To apply, individuals should contact My Aged Care. The process starts with an assessment by a local aged care assessment team. If approved, a Home Care Package can fund in-home services for their loved ones, helping to share the load.

Government Resources

There are several websites that offer information, resources, and access to support services. Carer Gateway is a great place to start.


Investigating different caregiving apps and technologies designed to assist carers in managing appointments, medications, and communication can be helpful. These can help to reduce some of the ‘mental load’ carers often experience.

Flexible Work Arrangements

Many carers are forced to give up work entirely to care for a loved one, while others still work part-time. Employees should discuss their situation with their employer and enquire about flexible work arrangements that suit both parties. Many workplaces have carer-friendly policies in place.


Learning about the specific condition, health issues, or challenges faced by the person being cared for will often make caregiving more manageable. Understanding their needs is important to ensure appropriate care is provided.

Professional Support

Seeking guidance from professionals, such as social workers or counsellors who specialise in elder care issues, is advisable. They can provide valuable advice, support, and resources.

Carers are the backbone of home care in Australia. Their dedication, love, and sacrifice often go unnoticed but their impact is enormous. As a society, it’s our responsibility to acknowledge and support these unsung heroes. In doing so we ensure that they receive recognition, assistance, and the respite they need to continue their selfless work.