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The views and opinions expressed in our blog series are those of the authors and are not necessarily supported by CareSearch, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health.
In May 2014, Carers Australia published a discussion paper, Dying at home: Preferences and roles for unpaid carers. It seems fitting that during National Carers Week we recognise the contribution that carers make to people who are dying. Most people wish to be cared for and die at home with the people they love and in familiar surroundings. Remaining at home is made much more likely where there is someone, or a group of people, who is willing to provide care and support for the dying person. Family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours all have taken on a caring role.
One of the most troubling aspects of caring for people at the end of life is caring for those left behind. The problem is simple – everyone focusses on the ill person while curative treatment is attempted. Everyone knows the supporting spouse, child, or friend is there, but the person with the illness is the patient, not the carer. However, being a carer is a risky business. Most carers have little health knowledge or background. The fear of doing the wrong thing and making the ill person worse is ever present. They do not know what is going to happen, and if things go wrong, whom to call and what to do. Studies of carers and patients at the end of life repeatedly show that the carers are more anxious and depressed than the patients themselves.