The McGowan Government joined Western Australians in celebrating the large impact made by unpaid carers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and marked the launch of National Carers Week.
National Carers Week, which ran from October 11 to October 17, is an annual event that outlines the contribution of carers and ensures they seek the support needed to fulfil their role.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, carers experienced a significant increase in stress and caring responsibilities together with overwhelming feelings of isolation and a general lack of support.
Unpaid Aged-Carer David Stenburg, who is the primary carer for a family member, outlined the hardships he had faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a carer during the COVID-19 pandemic, I faced a number of different challenges in caring for my wife Christine who suffers from dementia, specifically taking her to the doctors, making sure that she stayed clean, and trying to get her to wear a face-mask, as it can be very difficult to reason with her and get her to do specific things due to her condition,” he said.
“At times I felt unrecognised and terribly lonely which was increasingly hard to deal with, however, if you do really love and care for someone you can’t just walk away from the responsibility, you have to be there for them 199 per cent of the time.”
Carers are people who provide unpaid care to family members and/or friends who suffer from a disability, mental illness, terminal illness, who are frail aged and so on.
Commonly, carers are responsible for physical and personal care including dressing, showering, toileting, feeding and providing transport, as well as managing medications and providing emotional and social support.
Primary carers, such as Mr Stenburg, face a challenging and time-consuming job, with one-third of primary carers providing 40 hours or more of unpaid care per week.
Department of Communities assistant director general of policy and services Helen Nys highlighted why it is important for the significant efforts of carers to be acknowledged.
“The role of carers is often performed at home and behind closed doors. This experience can lead to care givers feeling that their efforts are unrecognised and under-appreciated,” she said.
“By ensuring we prioritise conversations about the role provided by carers and in advocating for the support services that are readily available, we can all help in promoting greater awareness of the positive impact that carers provide and boost the preparedness of carers to seek assistance.”
The State Government provides more than $1 million to Carers WA each year to ensure carers have access to support services and programs, including social support, counselling and training, advice, employment and engagement activities.
According to Carers WA, it is estimated that more than 320,000 people in Western Australia are carers, which equates to more than one in eight people in the community.
Carers WA head of marketing and systems development Clare Cullen highlighted the positive impacts National Carers Week had on the community.
“National Carers Week opens the eyes of the community to the many extraordinary people who provide unpaid care to a family member or friend,” she said.
“Carers WA developed a ‘Share Your Care’ campaign which asked Western Australians to share that they care about the contribution unpaid family carers make in the community.
“The initiative also provides an opportunity for community service organisations to highlight the services they offer to carers which can lead to an increase in carers accessing the support they need to continue in their role and reduce burnout and stress.”