Impact of caring

At some stage in our lives most of us will be, or need, a carer. No matter who you care for, taking on a caring role is a significant event that brings many challenges and rewards.

Rewards of caring

Carers say that there are many rewards for caring.  Individuals caring for a family member or friend report some of the rewards include:

  • The satisfaction of knowing you have cared for someone you care about, and done the best you could to improve their quality of life.
  • Strengthening the relationship with the person you care for and knowing how much they appreciate your help.
  • Receiving the acknowledgement of your family and friends.

Studies on the rewards of caregiving argue that there is often an intrinsic motivation, in which individuals chose to provide care for no reward other than the activity itself.

Challenges of caring

Caring can be very demanding and often restricts the lives of individual carers and their families.

Carers SA believes that our society relies too heavily on the care provided by caring families. We advocate for practical reforms that will help protect carers from the problems too often associated with caring. 

In a caring role, carers face a range of challenges including financial hardship, negative impacts to health and wellbeing, social isolation and poor relationships and disadvantage. Carers SA biannually conducts a major survey uncovering cares challenges of caring. This survey provides insight to the challenges faced by carers.

A summary of the last carer survey findings can be accessed. <hyperlink this line>

Financial hardship

The extra costs of caring can be enormous. Caring families often have to find money for extra expenses like heating and laundry, medicines, disability aids, home modifications, health care and specialised transport.

In 2015, more than half of the carers surveyed listed their household income as less than $40,000 per year and 27% of carers reported that their financial situation was worse than the previous year.  The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) was quoted to have calculated annual family household incomes below $39,104 as reflecting the poverty line in Australia.

Health and wellbeing

Caring can be emotionally taxing and physically draining. Carers have the lowest wellbeing of any large group measured by the Australian Unity Wellbeing index.  Some health problems, like back problems, anxiety and depression, can be directly linked to caring.

Many carers are chronically tired and desperately need to refresh with just one night of unbroken sleep, a day off or an extended period with no caring responsibilities. 

In 2015

  • 13% of carers indicated that they are not exercising and 26% are doing less than 1 hour of exercise per week. 
  • 17% of carers also indicated that their health was poor. 

Social isolation and relationships

Many carers feel isolated, missing the social opportunities associated with work, recreation and leisure activities.

The demands of caring can leave little time for other family members or friends as carers  often have to deal with strong emotions, like anger, guilt, grief and distress that can spill into other relationships and cause conflict and frustration. 

The relating social isolation results in carers having very little time for themselves.

In 2015, 67% of carers indicated that they have less than 5 hours of ‘me tine’ per week. These me time activities included essential activities and household chores as well as group activities such as socialising and spending time with family and friends (66%), exercise and sport (19%), volunteering (8%) and cooking/baking (6%). 

Disadvantage

Many carers miss out on important life opportunities, particularly for paid work, a career and education.

Caring can take the freedom and spontaneity out of life and have a life-long impact on life opportunities.

Employment

Primary caregiving is associated with a significant reduction in employment and hours of work, as caring often leaves to higher absenteeism, irregular attendance of work and a lack of concentration at work.

Over a lifetime, a reduction in hours worked results in significant losses in life time earnings, resulting in reduced superannuation savings.

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