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Optimising support for informal carers of the long-term disabled to enhance resilience and sustainability

Disability Caregivers Australia

Optimising carer resilience has direct benefits to carers, and additional benefits to the overall care support system by reducing dependence on paid care.

Executive summary

People with severe and chronic disabilities represent a significant proportion of the population who require assistance to live in their own home and be a part of the community. In addition to assistance from the paid carer workforce, this assistance is provided by family, relatives or friends who are not paid or formally trained in the provision of care and support. These informal carers assist with a variety of tasks including activities of daily living, emotional care and support and accessing medical care and ongoing therapy to optimise independence. There are 2.7 million people in Australia who provide informal (unpaid) care to a person with a disability or long-term health condition, of which 770,000 provide the majority of care and support to people with a severe disability. Given their substantial contribution to care provision and the physical, emotional and other impacts of providing care, it is important to understand the experience of informal carers and address their support needs. In recent years, studies have elucidated the substantial effects of providing care on the psychological, physical, social and other impacts of providing care to a person with a long-term disability. There are a range of interventions to mitigate these impacts, which are provided in Australia through a variety of national and local government and nongovernment entities with varying efficacy. Optimising carer resilience has direct benefits to carers, and additional benefits to the overall care support system by reducing dependence on paid care.

This NTRI Forum aims to investigate effective strategies for providing support (excluding skills-related education and training, i.e. manual handling and transfers) to informal carers that can help to optimise their resilience, and the sustainability of the long-term disabled.

An evidence review of literature identified 25 relevant reviews and primary studies and a further 16 ongoing primary studies. The overall results of reviews of carer support interventions were inconclusive, therefore firm conclusions regarding what works and doesn’t work cannot be made. However, evidence was reported as ‘good’ for educational and psycho-educational interventions, counselling and psychosocial interventions and multicomponent interventions; Evidence for care co-ordination and family support interventions was described as ‘promising’; Evidence for technology-based interventions was conflicting in the setting of Dementia, but more positive in the area of catastrophic injury; Evidence for respite care was described as ‘not strong’, and although benefits were reported, the importance of additional support strategies in conjunction with respite care was emphasised. Similarly, emerging positive evidence in favour of support groups was reported, however additional concurrent support strategies were recommended. Passive information dissemination alone was found to be ineffective. The review also outlined a range of factors to consider in interpreting this evidence and identified implications for practice and research.

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