Comprehensive Guide to Roles and Responsibilities of Carers and Family in Aged Care

Comprehensive Guide to Roles and Responsibilities of Carers and Family in Aged Care

  • Tara P
  • 22 June, 2024
8 Min Read

Carers in aged care are responsible for personal care, medication management, nutrition, and household tasks. They also provide emotional support and monitor health changes. Their duties include respecting the dignity and privacy of the elderly and adhering to care standards and regulations.

Roles and Responsibilities of Carers and Family in Aged Care

Carers play a vital role in supporting older adults, whether they’re family members providing unpaid care or professionals working in aged care facilities. This guide explores the multifaceted responsibilities and challenges faced by carers, as well as the support systems available to them.

Roles and Responsibilities of Carers and Family in Aged Care

Who Are Carers?

Carers are individuals who provide ongoing support, assistance, or supervision to someone who needs it due to disability, chronic illness, mental health condition, or age-related frailty. In the context of aged care, carers can be:

  1. Unpaid family members or friends
  2. Professional carers employed by aged care facilities or home care services
  3. Volunteers working with community organisations

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were approximately 2.65 million carers in Australia in 2018, with around 861,000 primary carers. These figures highlight the significant role carers play in our society.

Legal Rights and Responsibilities of Carers

Carers in Australia have specific rights and responsibilities under various laws and regulations:

Rights:

  • The right to be recognised and respected as a carer
  • The right to privacy and confidentiality
  • The right to receive support and services
  • The right to participate in decisions affecting the person they care for

Responsibilities:

  • Providing care in a safe and responsible manner
  • Respecting the rights and dignity of the person being supported in aged care
  • Maintaining confidentiality and privacy
  • Complying with relevant laws and regulations

Day-to-Day Responsibilities of Carers

The daily tasks of carers can vary widely depending on the needs of the person they’re supporting. Common responsibilities include:

Personal Care

  • Assisting with bathing, dressing, and grooming
  • Help with toileting and continence management
  • Oral care and denture maintenance

Mobility Assistance

  • Helping with transfers (e.g., from bed to chair)
  • Supporting mobility with walking aids or wheelchairs
  • Fall prevention and safety measures

Medication Management

  • Administering medications as prescribed
  • Monitoring for side effects
  • Liaising with healthcare providers about medication changes

Nutrition and Hydration

  • Meal planning and preparation
  • Assistance with eating and drinking
  • Monitoring nutritional intake and hydration

Household Management

  • Cleaning and tidying
  • Laundry and ironing
  • Shopping and errands

Social and Emotional Support

  • Companionship and conversation
  • Facilitating social interactions and activities
  • Emotional support and reassurance

Health Monitoring

  • Observing and reporting changes in health status
  • Scheduling and attending medical appointments
  • Implementing care plans and following healthcare advice

The Role of Family in Aged Care

Family members often take on significant caregiving responsibilities, which can include:

  1. Primary Caregiver: Providing day-to-day care and support
  2. Care Coordinator: Managing appointments, services, and communication with healthcare providers
  3. Advocate: Ensuring the older person’s rights and preferences are respected
  4. Financial Manager: Assisting with budgeting, bills, and financial decisions
  5. Emotional Support: Offering companionship and maintaining family connections

Family carers may also need to navigate complex family dynamics, balance caregiving with their own family and work commitments, and make difficult decisions about long-term care options.

Challenges Faced by Carers

Caring for an older person can be rewarding but also challenging. Common issues include:

  • Physical and emotional exhaustion
  • Financial strain
  • Social isolation
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Difficulty balancing work and caregiving responsibilities

A 2020 survey by Carers Australia found that 55% of carers experienced high or very high psychological distress, highlighting the need for support and respite services.

Other challenges may include:

  • Dealing with complex medical conditions or cognitive impairments
  • Navigating the aged care system and accessing services
  • Managing challenging behaviours associated with dementia or other conditions
  • Coping with the emotional impact of seeing a loved one’s health decline
  • Handling end-of-life care and decision-making

Support Services and Programs for Carers

Australia offers various support services for carers:

Carer Gateway

The Carer Gateway provides free services and support for carers, including:

  • Counselling
  • Respite care
  • Peer support
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Financial support

Carers can access these services online or by calling the national phone line. The Carer Gateway also offers in-person support through a network of service providers across Australia.

Respite Care

Respite care provides temporary relief for carers, allowing them to take a break. Options include:

  • In-home respite: A care worker comes to the home to provide care
  • Centre-based respite: The person being cared for attends a day centre
  • Residential respite care: Short-term stays in residential aged care facilities

Respite care can be planned in advance or arranged in emergency situations. It’s an essential service that helps carers maintain their own health and wellbeing.

Financial Support

Carers may be eligible for various government payments, including:

  • Carer Payment: An income support payment for carers who provide constant care
  • Carer Allowance: A supplementary payment for carers who provide daily care
  • Carer Supplement: An annual lump-sum payment to help with the costs of caring

These payments are administered by Centrelink, and eligibility criteria apply. Carers should contact Centrelink or use the Payment and Service Finder on the Services Australia website to check their eligibility.

Training and Education

Many organisations offer training programs to help carers develop skills and knowledge, such as:

  • First aid courses
  • Manual handling techniques
  • Dementia care education
  • Medication management
  • Stress management and self-care strategies

training and education

These programs can be accessed through community health centres, aged care providers, and carer support organisations.

Balancing Care and Self-Care

Maintaining personal wellbeing is crucial for carers. Strategies include:

  1. Setting realistic goals and boundaries
  2. Seeking help when needed
  3. Prioritising self-care activities
  4. Joining support groups or online communities
  5. Utilising respite services regularly

Carers should be encouraged to:

  • Maintain their own health through regular check-ups and screenings
  • Engage in physical activity and maintain a healthy diet
  • Practice stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness or meditation
  • Pursue hobbies and interests outside of their caring role
  • Stay connected with friends and family

The Role of Carer in Aged Care Facilities

Professional carers working in aged care facilities have specific responsibilities:

  • Implementing care plans
  • Assisting with activities of daily living
  • Monitoring and reporting health changes
  • Facilitating social activities and engagement
  • Maintaining accurate records
  • Collaborating with other healthcare professionals

These roles require specialised training and qualifications, such as a Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing). Professional carers must also adhere to industry standards and regulations, including the Aged Care Quality Standards.

Person-Centred Care: Involving the Older Person

Roles and Responsibilities of Carers

A key principle in aged care is person-centred care, which involves:

  • Respecting the individual’s preferences and choices
  • Promoting independence and autonomy
  • Involving the older person in care planning and decision-making
  • Recognising and supporting cultural and spiritual needs

Person-centred care aims to maintain the dignity and quality of life of older adults, ensuring that their care is tailored to their individual needs and preferences.

Cultural Considerations in Aged Care

Australia’s diverse population means that carers must be culturally sensitive and aware. This includes:

  • Understanding and respecting cultural beliefs and practices
  • Providing culturally appropriate food and activities
  • Facilitating access to interpreters when needed
  • Supporting connections with cultural and religious communities

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander older adults, culturally safe care is particularly important, recognising the impact of historical trauma and the significance of connection to Country and community.

Technology and Aged Care

Advancements in technology are changing the landscape of aged care. Carers may need to familiarise themselves with:

  • Telehealth services for remote medical consultations
  • Monitoring devices for safety and health tracking
  • Communication tools to stay connected with family and healthcare providers
  • Assistive technologies to support independence

While technology can enhance care, it’s important to ensure that older adults are comfortable with and capable of using these tools.

Navigating the Aged Care System

Understanding and accessing aged care services can be complex. Carers often need to:

  • Arrange assessments through My Aged Care
  • Understand different types of care (home care, residential care, etc.)
  • Navigate funding options, including government subsidies and private contributions
  • Advocate for the person they care for to ensure appropriate services are provided

Carers may benefit from seeking advice from aged care advocates or financial advisors specialising in aged care.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

Carers may need to engage with various legal and ethical issues, including:

  • Powers of attorney and guardianship
  • Advance care planning and end-of-life decisions
  • Elder abuse prevention and reporting
  • Privacy and consent in information sharing

It’s important for carers to understand their legal obligations and the rights of the person they’re caring for. Seeking legal advice when necessary can help navigate complex situations.

Transitioning to Different Care Arrangements

As care needs change, carers may need to facilitate transitions to different care arrangements, such as:

  • Increasing home care services
  • Moving to residential aged care
  • Accessing palliative care services

These transitions can be emotionally challenging for both the carer and the person being cared for. Support services, including counselling and advocacy, can help manage these changes.

By understanding the diverse roles and responsibilities of carers and family in aged care, carers can better navigate their journey, access support when needed, and provide high-quality care while maintaining their own wellbeing. As Australia’s ageing population grows, the importance of supporting and recognising carers becomes increasingly crucial for the health and wellbeing of our society.

 

Tara P

Joined : 8 May, 2024

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