Family Carers

Family Carers

What we know

Family and friends may be a carer for an older person needing palliative care. They provide physical and emotional support and assistance.  However, caring can be physically and emotionally demanding. Carers and families can benefit from support and assistance to enable them to continue caring.

What can I do

Recognise and acknowledge the role and contribution of the carer.

Some people may find themselves reluctantly in the role of carer. Help them to talk about their preferences and wishes. Questions for carers to ask the team caring for your loved one (from Palliative Care Australia) may help guide this discussion.

A distinction may need to be made between comforting and accompanying a dying person and providing physical or medical care. Clarify what role(s) a carer may be willing to take on. Some may not be comfortable providing some tasks such as complex medication management.

Promote: Suggest respite care to a carer or a family member. You can use the following assessment tools to help a carer understand his/her needs:


What can I learn?

From the PA Toolkit: Carers NSW has factsheets on: Assertiveness for carers  and How and why to hold a family meeting. 

Carer Needs Tool and Supporting Carers from CareSearch.

Carer needs and family meetings are explained in this PCC4U learning module.

The Community Visitors Scheme may be a way to connect a carer whose quality of life would be improved by friendship and companionship. Watch the Aged Care Channel Community Visitors Scheme video which explains how this service helps recipients of Australian Government subsidised aged care services (residential and home care).


What can my organisation do?

Make sure a carer and family members know who to contact if there is an emergency or when a critical change occurs.

Even though family meetings may occur regularly, ensure that a family meeting occurs after a critical change point.

Remember that an advance care plan (ACP) is a part of carer and family support. Ensure that an advance care plan (ACP) which can clearly express a patient’s wishes is easy to access. Take care as different states and territories across Australia have different laws regarding advance care planning. The recording of an agreed substitute decision-maker in an ACP will assist clear communication and decision-making.

Develop a kit of information for carers

  • Carer Payment
  • contact details of local support services
    • carer services
    • support groups
    • education resources for carers
    • respite
    • in-home services

Ensure that there is a mechanism for exchanging information in relation to the care of a person receiving palliative care; something as simple as a notebook can be helpful to record what has happened.
Page updated 22 May 2017