Celebrating carers at Christmas

I have several friends who are caring or have cared for a loved one – either a spouse, parent, or child. My experience of caring is limited to when I took care of my father in the last weeks of his life before he finally passed away after a rapid decline in health due to lung cancer. My observation of carers is this …

Carers are extraordinary people.  They provide a level of love and care day after day, week after week, month after month, and often year after year. Often without acknowledgement or reward.

I marvel and admire my many friends who have provided or provide care for partners or parents. Their patience, strength, determination and willingness to give so much of themselves is inspiring. Selflessly they give some of their life to their loved one so that they can live as full and meaningful life as possible – despite their deteriorating condition.

My recollection of caring for my own father was that it was 24 hours a day and exhausting. Whilst there was other family around they had no awareness of what I was managing.  However, that changed when I had to fly back home to continue working and hand over my fathers care. I slept on the floor outside his room listening to his breathing.  I navigated my way through the home care system to obtain a disabled sticker for his car. Eventually I recruited a the support of the  Silver Chain services and carers who were life savers. It also meant that I could leave knowing that he was in safe and caring hands.

The facts of caring

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2012 there were 2.7 million unpaid carers. This represents an increase of nearly 18% or 400,000 carers since 1998. Females comprise the majority of carers . In 2015 carers provided approximately 1.9 billion hours of unpaid care. And, according to a report by Deloitte Access Economics, the estimated replacement value of unpaid care provided in 2015 was $60.3 billion – over $1 billion per week, or 3.8% of Gross Domestic Product.

Caring for our ageing parents, relatives, friends, or family is something we will potentially all face. Like ageing really.

Carer options

Fortunately there are government and industry support services for carers. The government recently launched their Carer Gateway.  This service is an effort by government to make it easier for carers to access practical information and advice.  It also enables carer to connect with relevant services. The peak industry body Carers Australia is another useful resource.  Its purpose is:

“to improve the health, wellbeing, resilience and financial security of carers and to ensure that caring is a shared responsibility of family, community and government”.

I often wonder how I’ll manage when my mother requires increasing care.  As patience is not one of my virtues I’ll clearly be tested. Furthermore, my ability to provide care is challenged as the Australian desert separates us and we live on opposite sides of the country. My husband is already challenged as he attempts to manage caring for his mother who lives in London.

For a humorous look at caregiving read this article on ‘The Caregivers Guide to Sainthood’ in the New Yorker.

This Christmas, amongst all those people we remember and acknowledge I’ll be raising my glass to carers. A small token of appreciation and a healthy reminder to me and my family of the extraordinary role these people play in enabling the young, the old, and the sick to have some love and kindness in their lives and provide a level of ease and comfort that they may not otherwise experience.

To all those carers, past and present – thank you and Merry Christmas!

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