Home' Community Care Review : CCR Nov-Dec 2015 Contents COMMON AREAS
OF CARER NEED
Typically the carers sought information and
education around behaviours of concern, says
Fahey. "Communication issues were probably
the one that the coaches spent most of the
time working with the carers on, modifying
how they communicate with the person so
that they aren't triggering behaviours."
The coaches also provided information
and education in the area of activities,
Fahey says, providing the carers with ideas
that could help the person maintain their
own abilities to the best of their ability.
"They also had a lot of information
about accessing relevant services because
it's very hard for carers to find services
sometimes; it's a very complicated system
we're working in," she says.
This was particularly relevant in the area
of respite, given the literature shows carers
are often reluctant to access respite until
quite late in the journey, even though it is
most beneficial if accessed early, she says.
"A lot of carers are quite reluctant to use
respite services so a couple of times the
coaches actually assisted the person to the
first respite service and eased them into it,
and that was effective in terms of alleviating
a lot of stress for the carers," says Fahey.
The coaches also provided the carers
with information around recognising and
managing their feelings and focusing on
how they were coping, she says.
As part of an evaluation of the program
by Alzheimer's Australia NSW, data was
collected before and after on the carers'
depression, anxiety and stress, the impact
of being a carer on their life, and their
confidence in managing the symptoms and
There were considerable reductions in
depression (76 per cent), anxiety (75 per
cent) and stress for carers (78 per cent),
while there was a reduced negative impact
on quality of life in 84 per cent of carers.
Some 82 per cent reported having increased
confidence in managing symptoms and
accessing services, says Fahey.
She says that 37 per cent of the carers
were from culturally and linguistically diverse
(CALD) backgrounds, which was higher than
expected given CALD carers are often less
likely to access mainstream services.
Given the stress that many carers are under,
it is important that frontline community
Fast facts: Carers in Australia
• There are 2.7 million unpaid carers in Australia
• More than 770,000 are primary carers
• 520,000 carers are over 65 years of age
• 620,000 carers were born outside Australia
• On average, carers spend 40 hours per week providing care.
SOURCE: Carers Australia
Sources of support
• Carers Australia: provides services
for carers including counselling,
advice and information. Go to
• Commonwealth Respite &
Carelink Centres: provide
information about respite options
and other support services. Call
1800 052 222
• Weavers: a community of people
who have cared for a loved one
and provide peer support. Call 08
7325 4994 or go to weavers.org.au
• My Aged Care has information
and sources of support for
carers. Go to myagedcare.gov.au/
care workers can provide information about
the supports available if they suspect
someone isn't coping, says Ara Cresswell,
CEO of Carers Australia.
"It's incredibly important to be able to
say here is a number you can ring and can
speak to somebody; that there are a lot of
people who are doing what you're doing.
So the carer feels safe and not so isolated,"
Cresswell tells Community Care Review.
Older carers looking after a partner
will often experience both physical and
wellbeing decline because of their age and
the fact that they're dealing with issues like
dementia, incontinence, manual handling
and mobility issues, she says.
"It's a tough gig when you're an older
person and caring for somebody who is
incontinent and older too. It's a hard
ask," she says.
Discussing the supports that may be
required, Cresswell says carers are a diverse
group and their needs vary greatly.
Some will never need to access any
services, while others will seek services for
the person they care for, she says. "Others
will want to know specifically about how to
care for the person's wounds, or to better
understand their dementia. Some will need
counselling or access to support groups just
to keep themselves in good health."
Echoing Fahey, Cresswell says that a
common issue is around the coordination
of respite, which is where carers have the
most guilt and struggle the most.
Many carers say they don't access respite
because the person they're caring for begs
them not to, Cresswell says. "So while
carers say they need it, the person they're
caring for doesn't understand that and
therefore doesn't want them to access it,
which makes it really tough."
To assist community care providers in better
supporting carers, BaptistCare has developed
a workbook it says can be used by others. "It
is a resource that comes out of the common
things that the coaches were working with the
carers on; it's some additional support that
carers can get," says Fahey.
While the program has not secured
ongoing funding (it was initially funded
under a government grant), the provider is
now trialling a version using former carers
"We're now recruiting volunteers, people
who have cared for someone with dementia,
and putting them through a training
program in how to become coaches, and
they will then go out and work with carers."
In terms of equipping its own frontline
workers to support carers whenever issues
arise, Fahey says that a key role is providing
information and education.
"We either provide fact sheets or help
sheets from Alzheimer's Australia or we
refer them to contact the national dementia
helpline. We know that carers need time
out and self-care skills, so that would be
referring them to respite services."
The other important aspect for
carers is social networks, so they are
often referred to carer support groups
or retreats, or to participate in local
dementia cafes, says Fahey. n
To access the workbook, contact
Marleina Fahey on (02) 9023 2708
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