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Breaking down ‘Carer Stigma’: How to recognise and support carers this National Carers Week

National Carers Week is 13th – 19th October 2019, and is a week  to recognise and celebrate the incredible work of carers around the country. With over 2.7 million family and friend carers in Australia, many go unrecognised or are under a lot of pressure as they balance full-time careers with caring responsibilities at home.

What is a carer? A carer is someone who provides unpaid care and support to family members and friends who have a disability, mental illness, chronic condition or terminal illness, and those who are frail aged. It’s very likely that you know someone in a carer position, or perhaps there is someone at your work who is a carer but it is unknown to most of their workplace. Anyone can become a carer at any time – when a family member or friend has an accident or acquires an illness or disability, upon the birth of a child with a disability, or when an ageing parent becomes frail.

In a special Parenting Show podcast, Parents At Work CSO Kiri Stejko interviews Danielle Robertson, Founder and CEO of DR Care Solutions about her experience with carers, and the importance of workplaces recognising and supporting their unpaid carers in their juggle.

“It is hard to quantify how many people are out there caring for others,” Danielle says. “You don’t know, there might be someone working full-time in the office but they are actually having an aged or disabled relative living with them, and having to support them when they come home from work or before they leave every day. There are number of people out there doing this who aren’t recognised.”

Carers in the workplace

The work of unpaid carers can be challenging, and can affect other aspects of their life. The ABS found that “The provision of unpaid care has a negative impact on unpaid carers’ participation in employment and work hours. In addition, carers are more likely to leave employment than reduce their work hours when taking on caring roles. This has a significant impact on the incomes of carers over their life course putting them at risk of poor mental health and poverty in later life.”

This is why it’s crucial that organisations identify and support carers within the workplace, and strive to become ‘carer-friendly’ employers. To remain competitive, businesses need to ensure that they are attracting skilled employees, and many of these skilled employees combine paid work with unpaid caring, and need an employer who supports them in this. Aside from being economically beneficial, it is important to have workplace policies and procedures in place which support employees to combine work and care for their emotional, physical and mental wellbeing.

Removing the carer stigma

There are positive steps that employers, colleagues and friends can take to ensure unpaid carers receive the resources and assistance that they need to balance the juggle. One of the most important steps that we can take is to remove the stigma around caring responsibilities.

“They won’t admit to the workplace that there is an issue,” continues Danielle. “That they are virtually trying to manage two full time jobs.”

“I think there’s still a stigma in talking about your responsibilities outside of work unless they are very commonly understood,” Kiri agrees. “And like we are becoming more comfortable talking about mental health issues, this also needs to be an area of open conversation, supported by colleagues, employers and everyone around you.”

Listen below to this insightful podcast special as Danielle discusses further what employers and co-workers can do to help carers get the support they need to keep up this often very taxing work. available.

If you are interested in some other Carer podcasts, have a listen to the Caring for Carers three-part podcast series below:

Our THRIVE Masterclass is another fantastic resource for carers, as the Masterclass aims to provide participants with the opportunity to reflect, review and reinvest in what’s important to you. This will enable you to connect your personal and professional life in a way that works for you, your team and your family. Find out more about THRIVE here.