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Caring for someone at the end of their life is a very important, yet often challenging and emotionally charged, role.

Australia’s thousands of family carers can now access a comprehensive online information resource to help support them in the carer role and cope with what many consider one of life’s toughest challenges.

CarerHelp is a web portal that offers a wide range of advice and support for Australians who have taken on the role of caring for a terminally-ill parent, partner, relative or friend. The initiative is led by St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne’s Centre for Palliative Care in partnership with Flinders University’s CareSearch, the University of Technology Sydney, and Carers Australia, the peak body for unpaid carers in the country.

CarerHelp aims to empower carers with the knowledge to provide high quality care and cope with the hard times as well as they can. For example, the web portal provides access to information and resources to support carers in their role; links to services available to carers; an understanding of what to expect when someone is dying.

The resources, developed through consultation with a large group of family carers and community organisations, are available through a library of videos and downloadable information in article, factsheet and checklist format for family carers.

“At any given time, there are many thousands of Australians supporting a person in their final weeks and days of life – an undertaking that most are not personally prepared for emotionally or in terms of skills or experience,” Professor Jennifer Tieman, from Flinders University, says.

“Family carers come from all walks of life and this means there is no easy way of communicating with them. We are relying on support from the community in general to help us get the word out that this wonderful resource exists.”

With more than 160,000 Australians expected to die each year, and almost all needing the support of a family carer, especially those that die at home, the Centre for Palliative Care’s Professor Peter Hudson, one of the project’s leaders, believes CarerHelp meets a real need.

“For the first time, family carers have access to a comprehensive and dedicated online resource covering all aspects involved in caring for a terminally-ill parent, partner or friend so that they can be as prepared as possible and also hopefully reflect on the experience as a rewarding one,” Professor Hudson says.

CarerHelp addresses the information needs that carers have told us are important when someone is coming to the end of their life – what to expect as a terminal illness progresses, the practical aspects of caring, how to access community services and the obligatory legal and financial considerations involved in caring, dying and funerals.”

Funded by the Australian Government Department of Health, the website includes a page called Carer Voice, which hosts a series of videos featuring carers reflecting on their own real-life experiences and offering insight into the carer journey, from deciding to provide care, to coping with grief and loss.

“Dying is a reality of life and many of us will be involved in caring for someone we love. We know that many people who are terminally ill can only remain at home because family and friends support them by caring,” Professor Tieman adds.

“Our goal with CarerHelp is to be a very useful resource for very special people who provide care and comfort to loved ones when they need it the most.”

To access CarerHelp click here