BY CATHERINE NGUYEN
Being a carer is one of the most difficult roles that anyone could ever take on. In my case, I was a wife sharing a life with my husband. Then, without any warning or preparation, I became a carer, effectively a nurse, a pharmacist, a nutritionist, occupational therapist, cancer researcher, driver, hairdresser, anything and everything that he needed. Ironically, I did not even recognise what I had taken on, but had simply thought of myself as a wife caring for a husband for better or for worse. It did not occur to me that I needed help until I nearly collapsed and it was pointed out to me what I was juggling.
Luckily, there are many resources in Australia that carers can tap into apart from the support of family and friends. It helps to be aware upfront of what’s available and make use of them as the need arises.
Help and Advice
Carer Gateway is an Australian Government initiative to help carers, and is an excellent starting point. It provides practical information and advice, and helps you to get the service and support that you need. It has phone counselling, an online carer forum to help you connect with other carers, and self-guided coaching and skills courses.
You may be eligible for financial help from the Australian Government, depending on how much care you provide. Carer Gateway outlines what is available and how to apply, or you can call them on 1800 422 737.
Cancer Council can assist with transport and accommodation costs and in some cases can provide accommodation for regional patients and their carers travelling a long distance for treatment.
They can also put people undergoing treatment in touch with organisations that provide financial counselling, and can link patients with utility providers and telecoms who may be able to offer bill payment assistance programs.
You can take leave from work to provide care under the Fair Work Act 2009 and also ask for flexible working arrangements. It is best to discuss your situation with your employer. Even if you don’t require special arrangements, it helps if they are aware so that they understand if there is an emergency and your work may need to be reallocated to someone else quickly.
You may need legal advice or obtain legal powers as a carer, depending on the condition of the person that you are caring for.
- If you are caring for an adult (over 18) who needs help with finances, legal matters or property management – you may be able to get a power of attorney to act for them
- If you’re caring for an adult (over 18) who can’t make their own decisions about health care or living arrangements – you may be able to be appointed as their guardian
Help at Home
You may need home help or equipment for the person that you are caring for. Services differ between states and territories and between regions. Please call Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737 to understand what assistance is available in your local area. Help may be available from local councils, local hospitals, community or health centres, and local voluntary bodies, and can include:
- loaning you equipment and other practical items
- providing home help or help with gardening or shopping
- giving help and advice on diet and food
- Nursing help with physical care
- Physiotherapist and Occupational therapist help with equipment and maintaining independence.
This is not an exhaustive list of resources, but hopefully there is enough here to help you on your journey as a carer of a loved one.
If you are new to caring or would like assistance, Solaris Cancer Care encourages you to register for its free Carer’s Course on November 28 from 9.45am-4pm in its Sir Charles Gairdner centre.
Catherine has been volunteering with Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre since 2017, and joined Solaris Cancer Care as a blog writer in early August 2020. She lost both her father and her husband to cancer, and the experiences changed her life. Catherine developed a passion for researching all matters relating to cancer during her husband’s fight, and is keen to continue building on her knowledge and using it to help others.