With an ageing population, healthcare demands are increasing which is causing a greater shift from formal to informal care. Older people are more encouraged to remain in their homes for longer, but this requires additional support such as an informal carer workforce.
The shift toward informal care
The role of informal carers is critical with a significant proportion of people aged over 65 years living at home supported by unpaid carers. The reliance on informal care is likely to substantially increase over the coming years. It is well recognised that without informal carers and additional support provided by families, older people would be much more reliant on the aged care system which would further stress our already overburdened resources in this area.
This article’s focus
As the first article for 2022 in this series on the topic of aged care, I want to explore the often-hidden workforce of informal caregivers and their important role in Australia’s aged care system. It highlights the importance of allied health professionals in recognising the challenges associated with these roles and supporting the health and wellbeing of individuals undertaking these roles.
In this article I will focus on:
- What is an informal carer?
- What do informal carers do?
- Why is it important to recognise and support informal carers?
- What are the challenges that informal carers face?
- What can allied health professionals do to actively support our informal carers?
Informing caring responsibilities are broad and focus on a range of different areas. Informal carers often have their own health issues, but these are regularly put to the side because the focus is often on the person being cared for. Given the significant reliance on informal carers in our aged care system, it is important that allied health professionals are able to undertake early identification of any health and wellbeing issues in this population group, so that appropriate strategies and support can be implemented.
As allied health professionals we need to identify if our clients are informal carers and understand and recognise the stressors associated with these unpaid roles.
We also need to consider the significant impacts to an individual’s health and wellbeing that are commonly associated with informal caring responsibilities, and support them to also age well.