There are now more than 2.5 million unpaid carers in Australia – people who selflessly look after family, relatives and friends – many of whom probably don’t realise they are classified as carers.

Carers Australia defines carers as “people who provide 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”.

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.

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.  Carers 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.

National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia George Tambassis says that community pharmacies and carers often have a close relationship.

“This is especially the case for primary carers 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.

 “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. Community pharmacists and staff can help carers by making them aware of services which are available to assist them to cope by providing information about respite services, counselling, peer support, and carer training opportunities.”

 Carers responsibilities include handling prescription and non-prescription medications as well as wound management and specialist hygiene products, and aids and equipment. Added Mr Tambassis,“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. Medication management is likely to be particularly challenging where medications change, particularly after discharge from hospital. One of the challenges for carers is navigating the health system – which can be complex, frustrating, and time-consuming. 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.”

For more details about being a carer see –

The Carer Gateway website and the Carer Gateway YouTube channel houses many videos to help carers understand the support and services available to them. You can also follow the Carer Gateway Facebook page.

Peter Waterman

Pharmacy Guild of Australia

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