Caring for the carers

George Tambassis

With hundreds of unpaid carers on the Central Coast, Carers Australia has stressed the importance of maintaining their health and wellbeing.

Carers can be defined as people who perform unpaid care and support to family members and friends who have a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, terminal illness, an alcohol or other drug issue or who are frail aged and Carers Australia says there are around 2.5 million of them countrywide.

These people are an integral part of Australia’s health structure and are the foundation of the country’s aged, disability, palliative and community care systems.

National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, George Tambassis, said community pharmacies and carers often had a close relationship.

“Because they look after the health needs of the person or people they care for, carers are high users of community pharmacy services in their own right,” Tambassis said.

“This is especially the case for primary carers who are those who provide the most substantial amount of care to one or more people with disability, chronic illness, mental illness or who are classified as frail aged.”

He said the stress of caring could make a significant contribution to the deteriorating health and wellbeing of carers.

“It is widely recognised that carers tend to neglect their own health because so much of their focus is on the person they are caring for,” he said.

“Community pharmacists and pharmacy staff can help carers by making them aware of services which are available to assist them to cope.

“Carer support services which community pharmacies may be able to provide information about include respite services, counselling, peer support, and carer training opportunities.”

Caring may include help and support in any of the daily activities of the person being cared for.

It may include physical and personal care and assistance such as dressing, lifting, showering, feeding or providing transport.

Commonly, carers are responsible for the management of medications and provide emotional, social or financial support.

Caring may also involve helping the person they are caring for to be organised, reminding them to attend appointments and dealing with emergencies.

They are also responsible for both purchasing and administering a range of pharmacy products on behalf of the person or people they care for.

“This includes prescription and non-prescription medications as well as wound management and specialist hygiene products, and aids and equipment,” Tambassis said.

“The task of medication management can present a challenge to carers who are responsible for administering multiple medications in the correct dosage and at the correct frequency; ensuring that they are properly stored and have not exceeded the expiry date; and monitoring and reporting side-effects.

“So we provide information about the medicines, how to take them and provide dose administration aids where they are needed.

“And we do this not just for the people being cared for also for the carers themselves.”

He said carers also often sought assistance and advice in the proper use of aids and equipment, hygiene products and skincare management for the people they care for.

“We also know that all-too-often carers neglect to care for themselves.

“Because so much of their focus is on the person they are caring for, they can at times relegate their own health to a lower priority.

“This is something that community pharmacists are well aware of and on the look-out for.”

Media Release Jan 4
Pharmacy Guild of Australia