Who is a carer?

Carers are a diverse group and every caring situation is unique. Carers are people who care for a family member, a friend or another person in need of assistance or support with daily living. They include those caring for the frail aged, people living with long-term medical conditions, people with a mental illness, people with a disability and those receiving palliative care.

Carers can be adults caring for other adults, parents caring for children who are ill or have a disability or young carers under 18 years caring for, or involved in the care of, a parent, sibling, relative or friend. The closeness of the caring relationship means care can include emotional support for the person.

Some carers do not call themselves carers but see themselves as wife or husband, mother or father, partner, grandparent, child, friend or neighbour. There can be multiple carers who care as part of a family or community network. At times, because of the nature of the illness, a carer may not be recognised as a carer by the person he or she is providing care to.

The need for care can happen in various ways. It can increase gradually as a result of a progressive medical condition, or growing older and becoming frail. It can also happen suddenly, for instance, as a result of an accident or stroke.

Parent carers are most likely to be caring the longest. The responsibilities may be even greater in the situation of a carer who is a sole parent who has more than one person to care for, or if the carer has a disability or is frail aged.

Carers can live in the same house as the person they care for or live close by and visit regularly. Some live a distance away and visit weekly or monthly but nonetheless feel responsibility towards the person they care for. Caring can affect everyone in the family.

Carers give support with life matters and assist with the health and wellbeing of the person in their care. This can include tasks of daily living and social, emotional, spiritual and physical support. The individual caring situation can have many complexities and can include managing challenging behaviour.

Carers may be in full-time or part-time employment. Carers give their time to care because of commitment to and love for the person in need of care. In doing so, the caring role can impact on the carer's social needs and physical and mental health. Each carer differs in the intensity of the caring role, and this reflects in the stresses and demands of the carer in his or her tasks and responsibilities. Recognition of and support for the individual needs of carers will improve their health and wellbeing.

Anyone in our community could at any time be called on to care for someone close to them for either a short or long period of time. While the work done by paid support workers or care workers assists carers in their role, these workers have industrial entitlements and are not defined as ‘carers’. Similarly, the role of volunteers in our community is crucial to carers and the people they care for. However, the term 'carer' in the context of this web site does not include volunteers while they are working under the auspices of a voluntary organisation.