This paper provides a high-level introduction to the role of family members and friends who provide what is often called informal and unpaid care to older Australians. It has been prepared by staff of the Office of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety but does not represent a direction or position of the Royal Commission in relation to this area. Any views expressed are not necessarily the views of the Commissioners.
Increasingly, older people in Australia are choosing to remain living in their own homes for as long as possible. While not everyone has family members and friends to support them, many older Australians benefit from carers who provide assistance of various forms, ranging from help with domestic work through to personal and health care needs. Caring is often associated with a pre-existing relationship, and can be a positive and rewarding experience for both the person needing care and the carer. Caring can also change the nature of that relationship, and it can become a source of financial, emotional, social and physical strain.
Carers are critical to the sustainability of the aged care system. They provide support and services that may otherwise be funded by the taxpayer, the estimated value of which is significant. Over the past 20 years, the role of carers has been recognised increasingly through various aged care and social policy reforms. However, there remains questions about the extent to which current services help carers to meet the needs of the people that they care for.
This paper provides an overview of the role of carers in supporting older people, the impact of caring and carer needs, and the available supports and services.
The word carer is used in this paper to refer to family members and close friends who provide regular, ongoing assistance to people aged 65 years and older, or 50 years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with everyday personal activities. It does not include people with employment contracts to provide regular aged care services. Informal carers are still considered unpaid even though they may receive a carer payment or other government allowance.