Settlement Guide

Settlement Guide: caring for carers

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In many migrant communities providing daily care for family and friends is a way of life and not something you ask for help with. Many carers work without pay or support and can face language barriers, isolation and cultural stigma. National Carers Week (16-22 October) is a chance to show support for the vital role of carers and highlight the needs of carers supporting diverse communities.

Carers provide support to family members and friends in need because of a disability, mental illness, chronic condition or old age. According to the 2011 Census, almost 1.9 million people provide unpaid care in the community. A third of them are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. CEO of Carers NSW Elena Katrakis says the role of the carer is strongly defined and influenced by their language and cultural background. She says some communities don't recognise what the role of a 'carer' is.

Almost 1.9 million people provide unpaid care in the community - a third of them are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.


"Often carers from you know from different culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds often don't see themselves as carers. But they also often don't necessarily have the term carer within their language. So it's important to reach out to culturally and linguistically diverse carers so that they can associate with the role of carers and identify with it to be able to access information and support."

Despite having looked after his elderly Polish mother for 15 years, Zbigniew Komorowski doesn't see himself as a 'carer'.

He says caring is a normal part of life.

It's important to reach out to culturally and linguistically diverse carers so that they can associate with the role of carers and identify with it to be able to access information and support.


"In the morning, I check on her that she is OK. I make her breakfast; I help her with taking a shower and with getting dressed. At night she rings a bell next to her bed when she needs me. It is a physical job so you need to have a lot of dedication. She is almost 88 years old. I am used to it now. She may complain, may have anxieties, may not understand certain things. So you need to have a lot of patience and compassion."

When you are a carer you do not have the time or you are not able to engage with the social activities.


Carers NSW's Elena Katrakis says there are personal impacts on carers.

"When you are a carer you do not have the time or you are not able to engage with the social activities. Often depending on the person that you are caring you are not able to work, you are not able to engage in the work force, it can be quite heavy financial impacts, but also psychological and wellbeing issues for carers."

She says carers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds can suffer social isolation, language and cultural barriers and don't seek help.

Carers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds can suffer social isolation, language and cultural barriers and don't seek help.


Zbigniew Komorowski says language was one reason he's never asked for help in caring for his mother.

"This is a 24/7 job. I never had help from anyone. If someone came to help me, I don't think they would be able to help me much in the house, maybe they could just be company for my mother or just watch her so she doesn't fall while walking to the bathroom. But they would have to speak Polish as mum being almost 90 years old can only communicate in her language."


He says caring for his mother is his responsibility.

"I do believe it is my duty to look after her. Unlike some Australians, who put their elderly into nursing homes. I care for her now and I hope I will be able to continue."

The stresses and demands of caring can bring up a range of emotions.


Mother of six and long-time carer Robina Yasmin who migrated from Pakistan has faced cultural pressures. She's devoted her life to looking after her son who lives with cerebral palsy and severe anxiety.
 
"But If I will ask my community if they come to know that I need some help they think perhaps I am a little bit low. The people who are educated in our community they have a different type of thinking. But even from my country, people are saying [if] her son is disabled, the parents have committed some sins."

There are counselling services to help carers explore ways to deal with difficult situations and bring balance to their lives.


Carers NSW says the stresses and demands of caring can bring up a range of emotions. This is a focus of CEO Elena Katrakis.

"We know that carers have the lowest health and wellbeing of any population groups that has undergone the health and well-being index through Deakin University so we know that the impact of caring on carers on their well-being is very significant."

There is a range of financial assistance for carers from Centrelink.


There are counselling services to help carers explore ways to deal with difficult situations and bring balance to their lives. Elena Katrakis says there are also special programs for multicultural carers.

"Access to things like carer support groups, and there is many different culturally and linguistically specific carer support groups; the counselling for information and advice; things like respite that hopefully can give the carer a break; but also access to other support so that if the person is being cared for is also being looked after and has access to maybe day programs or other services that can also lower the impact on the carer."

There is a range of financial assistance for carers from Centrelink. Carers who provide daily care for children or adults may be entitled to an allowance of up to $123.50 per fortnight. Other payments and supplements may be accessed depending on eligibility.

More information is available from Carers Australia or phone 1800 242 636.