Seniors as carers: caring for an adult child

Seniors as carers: caring for an adult child

Did you know that the value of informal carers to the Australian economy was valued at more than $40 billion (and that was back in 2010)! [1]

Carers are vital to the wellbeing of our communities. Our Australian seniors take on a good chunk of informal carer roles, as well as providing regular care for grandchildren.

In Australia, an informal carer is defined as someone who provides unpaid support and assistance to people with a disability or chronic illness over a period of six months or more.

Over the coming months, we’re going to take a closer look at what this means for our over 60s carers and those that they’re caring for, and what we can all do to help.

And for those of you reading this, that are wearing the load (and rewards) of responsibility of caring for someone else, thank you from all of us.

Informal carers over 65 across Australia

Based on media reports over the past five years, we suspect that there are far more than 580,000 over 65s taking on the role of primary carers as recorded back in the 2011-2012 Australian Census. The next Census is about to kick off in August this year, so it will be a while before we can confirm this.

Responses to Census questions revealed that a sense of family responsibility drives the majority of selfless carers that dedicate their time, emotion and energy to look after others outside of employment or parenting responsibilities.

Some informal carers are dedicating their lives to others by choice, but there are also many informal carers who don’t feel that they have any other alternative than to take on this important role.

Part 1: Seniors caring for adult children or ‘ageing parent carers’

In this article, we’re going to focus on the lives of informal carers over 60 that are primary carers for adult children – children that may have never left home for a number of reasons, predominantly due to disability or mental health issues.

The reason we are doing this, is to help raise awareness and garner support and recognition for those that are supporting others. We also hope that by raising awareness that those carrying the load of informal caring may have others reach out to them, to offer help or at the very least, empathy.

How many of our Australian seniors are caring for adult children?

The latest statistic we were able to find online, was in 2014 when Anglicare Sydney found that around 15,000 people over 65 were caring for their adult child with a disability [2].  The study also found that more than 80% of these ageing parent carers were female and around one fifth were over 80 years of age.

What are the challenges and rewards of being an informal carer?

Depending on the disability or mental health concern of the child being cared for, daily care – over and above attending to their own aging related health and wellbeing challenges - may involve:

·        Paying for and managing living and care related expenses

·        Heavy lifting

·        Attending to daily hygiene tasks

·        Assisted feeding

·        Administering medications and medical interventions or nursing care

·        Managing mental health issues

·        Transporting their child to appointments

·        Managing their child’s finances and administrative tasks associated with their care

·        Being interrupted during the night due to care needs

·        Being one of their child’s main outlets for their frustration at their situation

·        Being one of their child’s main sources of conversation and love.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Caring [3]  more than one in ten primary carers that lived with other family members shared that their caring role brought the family closer together, and a feeling of satisfaction about their role.

On the other side, there are many negative health and wellbeing impacts including levels of stress and anxiety above the normal range; poor sleep quality; stress related illness and feelings of anger and resentment. [3]  

What can we do to help our ageing parent carers and their children?

The statistics above beg the question ‘who is going to care for their adult children once they are no longer able to?’ As caring community members, we can help ageing parent carers by:

·        Helping them think about and plan future care: opening up the conversation about transition planning may help to alleviate anxiety that the carer may have been living with for decades. Doing some research beforehand and short-listing some options to consider may be positively life changing for the carer, and in turn, their child’s future. Deinstitutionalisation of accommodation services for mental health and disability back in 1992 meant that many ageing parents became informal home based carers back in the 1990s. Finding transition solutions in Australia for our over 75s parent carers right now, is an escalating issue.

·        Offering assistance to look into affordable respite care options: we know that affordability is a concern for our over 60s, let alone looking after the needs of an adult child. The Sydney Anglicare study found that these over 60s carers experienced higher stress and anxiety levels than the normal range. Respite care for the adult child, is an opportunity for an ageing carer to have a well earned break.

·        Acknowledging their contribution: caring for someone else can have its rewards, but in many cases, the challenges can take the shine away. Offering a generous ear and a regular social catch up may be just the respite that an ageing carer needs.

Retirement Communities Australia’s Retirement Villages

If you are a senior considering a retirement village lifestyle and you are a carer our village staff can offer you advice on how we may be able to help. We design our villas to be two or three bedrooms so that guests can be accommodated. Our villages are also designed for ageing in place and to promote Active Health.

Visit our latest village website Wyndham Grange Village in Tarneit, to find out more.

Where to go to find out more to help our ageing parent carers

Life Assist > Caring for carers

 http://www.lifeassist.org.au

Human Services > Payments for Carers https://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/subjects/payments-carers

Carers Victoria > How can we help?

https://www.carersvictoria.org.au/how-we-help/information

References

[1] https://aifs.gov.au/sites/default/files/publication-documents/carers.pdf

[2] https://www.anglicare.org.au/sites/default/files/public/Caring%20Into%20Old%20Age%20InteractivePDF_FINAL.pdf

[3] Australian Institute of Health and Caring – Publication: Australia’s Welfare 2015; Chapter 2.4 Informal Carers.

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