Improving the wellbeing of Australia’s carers
25 February 2020 at 5:03 pm
Research shows that caregivers spend 67 hours a week on average caring for a child
Caregivers of children with intellectual disability often feel socially isolated and need better access to appropriate services such as family support groups and respite care, new research says.
A study from the UTS Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation found that caregivers – mostly mothers – experienced a decreased quality of life compared to the broader Australian population.
Researchers surveyed more than 600 caregivers of children aged between two and 12 with an intellectual disability, to gauge the impact on caregivers’ health-related quality of life. This includes their physical, mental, emotional, and social wellbeing.
The three risk factors that made life worse for carers were the amount of social support available, the degree of the child’s behavioural and emotional problems, and household income levels.
Co-author Dr Sheena Arora said urgent action needed to be taken to improve the wellbeing of carers.
“These are important findings from a policy perspective because if you can implement programs that improve these areas, then you improve quality of life for the whole family,” Arora said.
“Decisions around the provision of programs and services often only consider the impact on the child, and not the impact on the caregiver.”
Arora said many of these families faced significant challenges, including financial pressures, increased time demands and emotional stress, which impacted their physical and mental health.
The research showed that caregivers spent 67 hours a week on average caring for a child, with 56 per cent not in any paid employment.
These families were shown to be more likely to have problems paying gas, electricity or telephone bills on time compared to non-caring families.
The study also found that carers often felt unsupported and experienced social isolation, which was exacerbated by feelings of social stigma.
“This finding highlights the need to identify those at risk of feeling socially isolated and provide increased access to appropriate services such as family support groups and respite care,” Arora said.
Other interventions such as skills training programs, parenting programs and family education services were noted as examples that could make a difference to both parents and children.