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Becoming a carer

Everyone's path to becoming a carer is different. Sometimes your family member or friend could need help suddenly – for example if they've had a stroke. Other times, it's a gradual process with physical and/or mental changes slowly making it harder for them to care for themselves. Either way, looking after your own health and wellbeing is important because it will help you sustain your caring role. 

When news comes suddenly that your family member or friend has been diagnosed with a serious health problem, it's not uncommon to feel shocked and stressed at the prospect of becoming a carer, especially if you've never been in a caring role. Some people who have suddenly become carers have described feelings of helplessness, anxiety, sadness and fear of the unknown.

When you become the primary carer of your family member or friend, your doctor may discuss with you the types of support and help that you may need to undertake the role. Doctors or other family members may also raise the possibility of the person you are caring for moving into an aged care home. At this time, it is important to consider your options and think things through together. You need to consider whether you can provide the care necessary or whether other forms of support will be needed to allow the person to remain living at home.

Where there is no sudden onset of a condition, you may have been caring for your family member or friend a long time before the question of an aged care home arises. This, too, can be difficult.

How do I know which option is best?

Whatever your situation, it's worth knowing that a severe condition does not necessarily mean an aged care home is the best option. People can manage at home with the right level of support, and often older people prefer to stay in their familiar environment. However, there may be signs that the person you care for may benefit from moving into an aged care home. These include:

  • significant difficulties with being able to move around
  • significant incontinence problems
  • challenging behaviour such as wandering
  • significant problems with communicating
  • difficulties in thinking, planning and remembering.

More information:

Find out more about caring for someone at home or caring for someone in an aged care home.

If you are new to caring, you can find out more about who carers are and what carers do on Carer Gateway.

See what others have done

Last reviewed: 30 June, 2015.