There are millions of Australians providing care to an older person or someone with a disability or long term health condition. Looking after ageing parents or unwell family members and friends can be very emotional and stressful. Your day to day routine could change dramatically. It’s important to look after yourself and keep an eye on your finances.
Take care of yourself
Be kind to yourself and make sure you seek support from family and friends. Each state and territory has a carer’s association that provides advice and support:
Consider getting emotional support from a professional. Your local GP can recommend someone for you to talk to. If you are receiving Centrelink payments, find out about the Department of Human Services’ social work services – phone 13 17 94.
You can also contact:
MensLine Australia – phone 1300 789 978 for a free 24-hour counselling service
Relationships Australia – phone 1300 364 277 to arrange a face-to-face meeting
You can also contact Kildonan Uniting Care who offer a financial counselling for families with children and young people living with cancer through their WeCare service.
If you’re unable to work because you are caring for someone, you may be entitled to a government payment. Check with the Department of Human Services by completing the payment finder to see what you are entitled to.
From your employer
Check with your employer to find out how much paid carer’s leave you are entitled to. To find out more about your rights at work see the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Sick and carers leave information.
Becoming a carer might mean you have to cut back your hours in paid work, or leave altogether. If this is the case you will need to adjust to a change in income. Once you know exactly how much money you are entitled to and your total income, work out how you will use this to cover your expenses. The best way to do this is by doing a budget so you can see how much is coming in and how much is going out.
Work out how working part-time or taking a break from paid work due to carer responsibilities affects your super in retirement.
Ask for a hardship variation to your bills and debts
If you are finding it hard to pay bills, credit cards or loan repayments, the first step is to talk with your lender or finance provider and let them know you are experiencing financial hardship.
Many companies have hardship officers who can assess your situation and work out what help is available. Hardship officers can also help you work out an affordable payment plan such as paying bills in instalments or temporarily altering your loan repayments. See our information on financial hardship.
Seek help from a financial counsellor
Free, independent and confidential counselling services are available through Financial Counselling Australia. Financial counsellors can help you negotiate payments and apply for a hardship variation. Find a financial counsellor near you.
Keep an eye on your super
If you’re earning less money from paid work your super balance will be affected. If you can afford it, see if you can contribute to your super while you are not working.
Make sure your super is working well for you by consolidating any super accounts you aren’t using, checking your super fund is right for you and ensuring your super investment option suits you. For more information see if your super is on target.
Case study: Margaret seeks help
Margaret is 58 and recently divorced from her husband of 30 years. She works part-time at a local library. Her mother and father are in their 80s. Margaret’s mother has a degenerative brain disease which means she is unable to do much for herself anymore.
Because Margaret lives the closest of all of her siblings, the amount of time she spends cooking, cleaning and looking after her mother is increasing dramatically. Margaret has had to reduce her hours at the library to only fifteen hours per week.
On the advice of a friend, she met with a financial counsellor who is helping her work out the best way to make sure her income covers all her expenses.
Being a carer for a family member or friend who is unwell is a very courageous thing to do. It’s important you also think about your own wellbeing and make sure your finances are under control.
Reproduced with the permission of ASIC’s MoneySmart Team. This article was originally published at www.moneysmart.gov.au
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