CarerHelp - Caring for our Rural Carers

CarerHelp - Caring for our Rural Carers

An article written by Tina Thomas, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Palliative Care, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne

About CarerHelp

CarerHelp (www.carerhelp.com.au) provides online information and resources to Australians caring for someone with an advanced disease. CarerHelp has practical resources and information in different languages and formats including topics such as how to care, self-care, services and supports, signs of dying, and bereavement. Since its launch in 2019, an average of 1000 new users visit monthly (we have reached over 50,000 Australians).

CarerHelp is led by St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne and is partnering with CareSearch (Flinders University), Grief Australia, and the National Rural Health Alliance. We have also developed strong links with many national organisations including Palliative Care Australia, Carer’s Australia, Health Direct, and the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia. CarerHelp is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care and has just been awarded its third round of funding through a National Palliative Care Project Grant.


Why focus on rural carers?

There are seven million Australians (28%) living outside of major cities [1] and these people have poorer health outcomes and poorer access to and use of primary health care services. [2] We also know that 1 in 4 of Australia’s carers are living outside of a major city which means they also have less access to the health and support services that could support them in their role as a ‘carer’.

The barriers to accessing aged care services and end-of-life health care for rural Australians include geographical distance to services, lack of available services, lack of stable workforce, and difficulty accessing culturally appropriate care. Rural families, themselves, report significant unmet information and service needs.

While CarerHelp is available for all Australians, including those from rural areas, we believe that a specific strategy is required to improve access to tailored end-of-life information and support for rural carers. The aim of this newly funded project (2023-26) is to make CarerHelp more accessible to carers and families from regional, rural and remote parts of Australia who may have limited access to palliative care and bereavement services. This includes carers who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander or from specific cultural backgrounds and have settled in particular rural areas.


What initiatives do you plan on implementing to support rural carers?

We are planning a number of initiatives to meet the needs of rural carers. Firstly, we need to be clear about the unique needs of rural carers. We will conduct a literature review to ensure we incorporate the latest evidence. We will also run consultation sessions with services who provide aged care and end-of-life health care to rural families. This will help us focus in on what the specific needs are at the local level. From here we will design new resources for rural carers and then circulate them with rural families and services to get feedback. These new rurally focused resources will sit on our ‘Communities’ section of the website and we will develop a marketing strategy to ensure that rural communities and services are aware of the new resources. Further we will develop processes to assist aged care and health services that utilise the resources with families.

The second initiative that we will be focusing on is to develop and deliver a number of online sessions for rural Australian carers to attend which are conducted by relevant health professionals. We know that rural families have less access to both specialist palliative care services and grief and bereavement services. We are really excited about reaching out to rural carers and connecting them with a health professional from each of these specialty services. These one-off sessions will cover basic information on two separate topics:

  • Preparing for End-of-Life Caring: Empowering carers to contact available services, utilise community supports, and plan for end-of-life care. (Hosted by a palliative care specialist)
  • Caring and Grieving: Providing information on grief, strategies for managing grief, indicators of when to seek help, and options for further help. (Hosted by a grief counsellor

CarerHelp is excited about this project and looking to connect with rural aged and health care services to better understand the needs of rural carers. If your service is interested in being involved in this process, please email Kristina.thomas@svha.org.au.

 

References

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Regional population [Internet]. Canberra: ABS; 2021-22 [cited 2023 Oct 17]. Available from: https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/population/regional-population/latest-release
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Rural and remote health [Internet]. Canberra: AIHW; 2023 [cited 2023 Oct 17]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/rural-remote-australians/rural-and-remote-health#heath-status

Authors

 

Tina Thomas

Senior Research Fellow

Centre for Palliative Care, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne

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The views and opinions expressed in Palliative Perspectives are those of the authors and are not necessarily supported by CareSearch, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care.