Carers provide 1.9 billion hours of unpaid care in a year. That’s worth $60.3 billion - over $1 billion per week.
Value of carers
Nearly a quarter of a million South Australians are carers (245,000), that’s 1 in 6 South Aussies caring for family or friends every day.
1 in 8 (12.4%) of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population are carers, compared to 1 in 10 (10.5%) of the non-Indigenous Australian population.
The average age of a primary carer is 55 and we are more likely to become carers as we get older (from 1.3% of those aged under 15 years to 19.9% of those aged 55 to 64 years).
One-third of primary carers (37.8%) live with disability themselves.
Two thirds of carers are women (68.1% of primary carers) and among the over 55s the number of women carers is double the number of men. (134,500 vs 70,800).
What is a carer?
Carers give ongoing care or assistance to loved ones who have a disability, a serious chronic physical or mental illness, or need help with everyday tasks as they get older. They do not get paid and simply do it because they care.
The most common reason for taking on a caring role is a sense of family responsibility (66.9%). The next most common reason was a feeling they could provide better care than anybody else (50.3%), followed by a feeling of emotional obligation to undertake the role (44.2%).
Around 856,000 carers (32%) are primary carers, those who provide the greatest amount of informal assistance to someone.
- Almost all primary carers (96%) care for a family member. More than half (55%) of primary carers provide care for at least 20 hours per week.
- Two thirds of carers spend more than 40 hours a week providing care.
- Two thirds of carers have been caring for more than six years.
- A third have been caring for more than ten years.
Young carers are people under 25 years of age who care in families where someone has an illness, a disability, a mental health issue or who has an alcohol or other drug problem.
There are 34,000 young carers in South Australia (between 7 and 25 years old). That’s two in a typical classroom.
272,000 of Australia's carers are young carers and there are 59,100 carers under 15.
The person they care for may be a parent, partner, sibling, their own child, relative or friend.
Many young carers emphasise that caring is a positive experience. However, research clearly indicates that caring affects their own health, mental health and wellbeing.
They frequently miss school, have no time to complete homework, feel distracted during lessons and miss out on out-of-hours activities.
Young carers can:
- feel low self-esteem, fear, worry, sadness, anger, resentment and guilt
- have limited spare time for fun and friendships
- worry about school especially in year 11 and 12
- find it hard to balance caring with developing a life for themselves. In particular, 18-25 year olds often struggle because
- they feel cheated of their youth
- they’re often unable to leave home or get a job
- 60% under 25s don’t work (compared to only 20% for other young people)
- they feel older than their years from undertaking adult responsibilities which makes it harder to mix with friends of the same age.
The cost of caring
Caring can be rewarding but it can come at a cost.
For some carers caring has been an inner personal journey – they have grown as a person, developing patience, calmness, understanding, compassion and tolerance.
- Carers often say that caring made them a stronger and more independent person, that they developed a stronger relationship with the person they were caring for; sometimes caring can bring the whole family together.
- Carers value the friendship and companionship they gained through carer support groups and retreats.
However, dedicating enough time and energy can take a huge toll on a carer’s own health, family life and their plans for the future.
- It can be hard to make ends meet if a carer is working reduced hours or unable to do paid work at all.
- The weekly median income of primary carers aged 15 - 64 is 42% lower than that of non-carers.
- 44% of primary carers do not have a paid job (compared to 20% of non-carers 15-64).
Negative impacts far outweigh positive comments by 20 to 1.
- Carers may feel loss and restriction as the person they are caring for takes priority over their own needs and well-being.
- Carers with work and family responsibilities find it hard to find sufficient time to undertake all their caring tasks. Some carers retire early or leave work to help balance the caring role and work.
- Two main negative financial impacts – decreased income and increase in unavoidable costs associated with caring. Lack of funds prevents carers from socialising.
- Caring is a significant physical and emotional commitment. Carers become unfit when they have so little time to exercise.
- Carers can feel helpless, lonely, guilt and grief. They say it’s too hard, devastating, challenging and tiring. Many have been treated for depression or felt suicidal.
Need to talk?
If you've felt any of these feelings and need to get things off your chest or reach out for support.
Call us on 8433 9555
Statistics gathered from Australian Bureau of Statistics: A Profile of Carers in Australia, 2015, and South Australian Home and Community Care: Carers Project Report 2012