OPINION: Celebrating the unsung heroes of the care system
THIS week marks National Carers Week.
It's a week dedicated to acknowledging and celebrating the significant contribution unpaid carers make in Australia.
Unpaid carers are the unsung heroes of the care system. My mother works in aged care, and she's one of the lucky ones - she actually gets paid. There is no denying the work she does is both physically and emotionally exhausting.
I take my hat off to her. She is patient, strong, empathetic, nurturing and, for lack of a better word, caring.
I know most daughters say this about their own mum, but she really is the best at what she does. She looks after her clients with the same love and attention she gave us five kids. But in her eyes, she's simply doing what must be done to help make their lives that little bit better.
Meanwhile, there are 2.7 million unpaid carers in Australia.
Each week, they provide 36 million hours of care to loved ones who are living with a disability, mental illness, drug or alcohol dependency, chronic condition, terminal illness or who are facing the challenges that can come with old age.
There's no doubt many of Australia's informal caregivers are coping with far more than it is reasonable to expect. Most care willingly. For many it is the intangible rewards of caring that buoys them to persist. However, caring also comes with some very real challenges. Care can only be as good as the mental state and overall wellbeing of the carer. This depends in turn on the support they receive to attend to their own wellbeing.
For this to happen the needs of caregivers have to be recognised and societal supports better designed to meet them.