Aged Care Research: Are You a Carer and Don’t Know It?

By on the Friday, November 15, 2013

A new study is being conducted by the University of Queensland to investigate the role of informal caring and the impact on the carer’s work and family life. Claire Greaves, an Organisational Psychology PhD Candidate is currently investigating how informal carers, who are also engaged in the workforce, manage these dual roles. Ms Greaves spoke to Aged Care Online about her research and how many carers do not realise that they are care-givers and often unpaid.

 

Q. Can you briefly tell us what your research is about?

A. I am investigating the role of informal care-giving for elders on carer’s work and family life… Research has shown that care-giving can have both negative and positive impacts on carer’s health and work outcomes, but we need to know more in order to facilitate support initiatives.

This area of research is vital given demographic challenges for Australia and the implications this has for carers who need to balance multiple roles. I am investigating what support resources organisations need to embark upon to assist carers. My goal is to make a difference for carers in Australia, with the aim to provide tangible and practical outcomes for carers through my studies (i.e. training and development opportunities, organisational HR policy implications).

Q. What drew you to this field of research?

A. I was drawn to this broad field of research through my undergraduate studies in Psychology, always leaning towards a gerontological focus within organisations and family units.

Informal care-giving is a key issue in Australia given population ageing and I believe this topic area is crucial to investigate how we can improve carers’ health and wellbeing, support them in their roles at home and in the workplace, and how to facilitate positive outcomes for carers and those they care for.

Q. When you say ‘informal care’, what constitutes informal care?

Informal caregivers, in addition to their paid job, provide assistance (usually unpaid) to an elderly relative such as a parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, aunt or uncle, partner/spouse, sibling etc, who needs help because they have an illness, disability or because they are getting older.

The person who needs help may live with you in your home, in their own home or in another place such as a nursing home.

All informal caregivers generally provide some form of emotional or social support. Some caregivers assist their elderly relatives with the activities of daily living: for example, helping with cooking, eating, washing, dressing, going to the toilet or administering medications. Other caregivers provide care for people who are quite independent but who may need support with transport, shopping, finances, management of health care issues and occasional household tasks.

However, family members in these situations may not necessarily view themselves as carers. Where care-giving may be more frequent or intensive is when informal carers start to experience difficulties in their daily lives, particularly at work. Whilst at work, carers may experience interruptions (i.e. phone calls or needing to leave unexpectedly), require time off, and arrive late or leave early from work. Health implications, when informal care is challenging, typically encompass feeling stressed, reporting poor health or feeling burned out from trying to juggle multiple roles.

Q. How often do people not realise they are informal carers?

A. I think the notion/idea of informal care-giving can be a little unclear especially in the context of people who are still engaged in the workforce and caring “on the side”.

This is a less obvious role to be undertaking than someone who is a fulltime carer to a family member where the role is clearly defined. Informal caregivers are unpaid usually and undertake these tasks as part of the family unit.

In fact, they may view their care-giving as simply part of the everyday functioning of their family or out of the love for the person they care for – parents, spouses, siblings etc. This is certainly the case when the person they care for is relatively independent and they may simply pick up groceries for them after work or take them to doctor’s appointments.

In other cases where the elder may reside in a nursing home or other care situation, visitation for emotional support or assisting with daily duties such as feeding or tending to their needs is also a form of informal care.

Q. Is there help available for informal carers?

Many carers may access the community resources that are available to them such as nursing home support, in-home nursing staff (i.e. Blue Care, Spiritus) or other respite care services that are available to them. However, in some cases there are difficulties in accessing or navigating these services with long waiting lists or needing to fit certain criteria in order to receive certain services. This can cause additional stress to carers with many turning to their family networks for support.

Ms Greave is looking for more participants for her study, if you (or someone you know) would be classified as an informal carer and would like to participate in the study you can find more information on the study’s website.

 

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