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The challenges of being a carer

This article examines a real-life case to reveal how caregivers juggle financial pressures and emotional challenges. It stresses the importance of caregivers looking after their own well-being, offering practical advice on accessing vital financial assistance.

Caring for a loved one can be deeply fulfilling but brings its fair share of challenges too – as Laura discovered.

When her mother Shelly had a stroke, she didn’t require a nursing facility, but could no longer live alone.

Laura was working part-time while studying a Bachelor of Dental Surgery and dreaming of one day opening her own boutique dental practice. She assumed that moving home to care for Shelly wouldn’t greatly affect her career plans, and, in fact, giving up her rental accommodation would save money.

Unfortunately however, Shelly had had to quit work so the pair only had Laura’s wages to live on. Yet the bills kept coming in, and on top of everyday living costs, expenses such as medicines, transportation and modifications to the home soon added up.

Additionally, helping Shelly attend medical appointments and assisting with errands put Laura behind in her studies. Since Shelly’s condition was not going to improve, Laura deferred her course; telling friends she’d return later.

A great emotional weight settled on Laura’s shoulders as she automatically prioritised her mother’s day-to-day needs above her own.

As expected, Shelly’s condition worsened. Medical sessions often clashed with Laura’s work commitments leaving her no option but to give up her job as well.

While expecting to support her mum physically and emotionally, Laura wasn’t prepared for the financial hit.

Fortunately, the Australian government offers a range of financial assistance packages, such as:

  • Carer payments: provided to those giving constant care to someone with a disability, illness or is aged.
  • Carer allowances: offering financial assistance to carers who provide daily care and support to individuals with a disability or medical condition.
  • The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) which offers various services and programs for disabled people and their carers.

Applicants must meet prescribed criteria and the amount of payment varies depending on the situation.

The Government website servicesaustralia.gov.au contains a wealth of information for carers, including eligibility criteria, entitlement estimation calculators and information on how to claim.

Shelly’s doctor provided program leaflets and additional details, and helped Laura gather the medical paperwork and other relevant documents.

For Laura, giving up her job impacted more than just her finances. Having already lost friends after too many declined invitations, she now lost her last source of social interaction.

Resigning herself to a life of care, Laura abandoned all thought of returning to university, along with her dreams for the future.

It was around this time that Laura discovered Carer Gateway carergateway.gov.au and Carers Australia carersaustralia.com.au.

These websites provided valuable carer resources, information and assistance services. While recognising that financial relief was crucial, their emphasis was on the relevance of self-care, urging carers not to underestimate the importance of their own well-being, particularly their physical and mental health.

Laura found a community of people who understood her situation, and a network of support groups, counselling services and respite programs encouraging carers to balance their care-giving responsibilities with their own needs.

One of Laura’s new friends suggested she seek legal advice around Powers of Attorney, and a financial adviser specialising in estate planning for both her own and Shelly’s peace of mind.

These days Laura says she feels the world opening up as the silence around caregiving is broken. With her mother’s illness, her life took an unexpected turn, yet it has expanded in other ways. Laura’s future is looking brighter; she has even enrolled in an online dental assistant course.

Not exactly what she’d originally planned, it’s nevertheless a pathway to her own future, and more than that, she’s daring to dream again.

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