Family and friends who provide informal and unpaid care to older Australians are critical to the sustainability of the aged care system, and as the population in Australia continues to age, the reliance on informal carers is set to increase.
Background Paper 6: Carers of older Australians, released by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety today, explores the roles, challenges, and needs, of informal carers of older Australians. It also addresses services and supports to assist carers in their caring role.
The paper states that increasingly, older people in Australia are choosing to remain living in their own homes for as long as possible. A consequence of this has been an increasing reliance on family and friends to supplement formal home support services.
"Given the large number of family and friends providing care to people over the age of 65, it is clear that the replacement value of these services for the aged care system would be significant, critically affecting its current sustainability," the paper notes.
Despite the reported need for support, the overall proportion of carers who use available carer supports (including respite care) tends to be low and even then, use is often delayed.
In 2015, 58.9% of all primary carers surveyed in the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, had not received assistance from organised services in the previous six months. Of those surveyed, 35.1% were not satisfied or were unsure about the range of organised services available to assist with their caring role, and 25.4% were unaware of the range of services available.
Potential reasons for this may be a lack of carer-awareness and support to link into appropriate services, as well as specific challenges faced by the needs of diverse communities.
"A lack of cultural appropriateness in services can make it difficult for carers to access and engage in the provision of the formal care of their family member," the paper says.
The paper concludes that:
"The need to ensure current services appropriately assist carers to meet the needs of the people that they care for appears greater than ever."
This paper is part of a series of background papers the Royal Commission will issue. Any views expressed in it are not necessarily the views of the Commissioners. The paper is available on the Publications page.