Carers identified?

3.2 Literature findings: key themes

Page last updated: 2010

Literature available on identification of the carer continues to be extremely limited both within Australia and internationally. Information related to rights and needs is well documented however the process of identification is generally not addressed. Definitions are many and varied and they primarily require self identification by way of relationship to the consumer or by the tasks undertaken for the consumer. Some of the literature explores the difficulties associated with the process of self identification particularly for carers of people with a mental illness.

Some of the information presented in this section is an update of that presented in the Network's 'Identification of the Carer' Project completed by the same author for DoHA in 2007.

Literature searches of the United Kingdom (UK) literature provided the most recent information regarding processes for identification. These relate primarily to identification of all carers, not specifically those who care for people with a mental illness. The literature also almost exclusively related to general practice rather than mental health services. Nevertheless, the practices are worth examining as they could be applied across a range of sectors. The good practice protocols identified in the search also related to general practice.

GPs practice in Australia is significantly different than that delivered by the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. However, the 'good practice' protocols that have been implemented, albeit in a rather ad hoc manner in the UK, could form the basis for discussion with the College of GPs in Australia.

The UK National Strategy for Carers (1999) identified the NHS as being the most important point of contact for adult carers and it specified some key roles for primary care staff. They recognised that the most important point of contact for young carers was within education, but, acknowledged that primary care staff working with families/parents offers obvious opportunities for identifying young carers. The strategy highlighted the primary care roles as being ideal for identifying patients who are carers or who have a carer; checking carers' physical and emotional health; informing carers of their rights to an assessment and other support services; sign– posting and referring carers to other sources of support and developing carer friendly practice based services. Top of page

Both carer specific and mental health legislation were also re–examined however there has been minimal changes over the last two years and the majority continue to be dependent on people self identifying, or assume a process has already taken place.

For completeness this section of the project report has been updated and re-describes the following:

  • The rationale for carer identification and engagement
    • Carer rights
    • Impact of carer identification and engagement in relapse prevention for consumers
  • Impediments to identification
    • Use of the term carer
    • Privacy and confidentiality
    • Workforce education and training
    • Organisational and cultural issues
  • Advance directives
However, given the areas of overlap it continues to be difficult to address these topics in isolation.

The issues examined specifically in the literature related to processes for identification and have been categorised into the following broad themes.

Key findings around each of these themes are provided in the next three sections.