- Your elderly mother has just had a fall. She’s out of hospital but needs daily checks and care while she recovers at home. It’s easier to have her come and live at your place.
- Your adult child has developed schizophrenia and needs supervision with medication and support to live independently.
- Your partner has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness and needs emotional support, help at home and to go out.
- Your father has had an accident and now uses a wheelchair. He gets depressed easily and you have to make sure your brothers and sisters get to school and have something to eat when he’s not able to cope.
These scenarios happen every day and those who care for people who are ill, frail or have a disability have to make major adjustments overnight. The change in status to being a carer can be stressful and carers often have mixed feelings about it. At the same time as taking on new responsibilities, carers often want and need to keep working.
Working carers are people who juggle paid employment with unpaid caring. They may care for a child, relative or friend who needs help because they are ill, frail, have a disability or are ageing.
Working carers are men and women of all ages. They come from diverse backgrounds and may work full-time, part-time, have a casual job or be self-employed. Caring responsibilities may affect their ability to cope at work, and work responsibilities may affect their ability to provide care. Recognition and support from employers, governments, service providers, and family and community members is important.
Don’t go it alone
Talk to your family and friends to see who can help with what, and when. Learn as much as you can about the illness or disability – see our Medical Dictionaries and Links to peak bodies. Talk to your GP and health professionals and attend training and support groups for carers. Encourage the person who has experienced the illness or disability to be involved in decision making about their care as much as possible. Develop a care plan and a roster of those available to support the care recipient and subscribe to our newsletter.
Know your rights at work
It is illegal in NSW to discriminate against employees because of their role as a carer in the past, present and future. Industrial relations, anti-discrimination and privacy laws outline Your Rights at Work as a carer. You can ask for flexible working conditions to enable you to continue to work and provide care at the same time. Most awards or enterprise agreements allow you to take carers leave to deal with emergencies, take the care receiver to appointments, or to take time off during the day and make it up later. Check your award or enterprise agreement for details. If you are covered by an Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA) you are entitled to carers leave as part of your personal/sick leave entitlement. Join your union or trade association and check this site regularly to keep up with the latest industrial relations legislation and news.Talk to your employer about your needs. If they are uncertain about their responsibilities, point them to your award or agreement and our guide for employers, Carers and Work.
Locate and use local services and supports
You may be eligible for Commonwealth, State and Local Government services to provide respite and support in your role as a carer. Respite provides alternative care arrangements for the care receiver, such as in aged care homes, on holidays, at activity centres, or in-home care, so you can have a break. Australian Unity Home Care services help with housework and personal care. Carers NSW, the association for carers, has a number of support programs. Be prepared for waiting lists for many services. In the meantime, you may be able to get some volunteer assistance, friend or family support, or purchase private services. You have the right to make a complaint if services provided are not of high quality.
Find out about your financial entitlements
If one or two people decide to take on significant responsibilities for the care receiver, they may be entitled to the Commonwealth Government Carer Allowance, payable through Centrelink. This allowance is not means tested, so you can keep working and still get it. It is currently $123.50 per fortnight and it can be paid to one person or shared between two people. Claiming Carer Allowance lists how to make your claim. There are a number of other payments and benefits you and the person you care for can apply for, see our fact sheet Money Management . Make sure you know all the legal aspects of your caring role, see our fact sheets Legal Matters and Planning for your Future.
Take some time out for yourself
Talk to a friend, join a support group, go for a walk, start or maintain an exercise program or activity that you enjoy. Eat well, get plenty of sleep, and be firm about not taking on too much responsibility for others. Caring and working will be easier and more rewarding if you look after yourself too. See our self care tips for some ideas to keep yourself happy and healthy.