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Many primary carers of people with disability due to arthritis and osteoporosis are older Australians who themselves need assistance and whose caring duties were often making their problems worse, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

'As Australia's population ages, the number of people with profound or severe disability from arthritis and osteoporosis is projected to rise and the ageing of the primary carers is likely to become a major issue,' said Dr Naila Rahman of the AIHW's National Centre for Monitoring Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Conditions.

In 2003, about 50,000 Australians received help from primary carers because of a severe or profound disability caused mainly by arthritis or osteoporosis.

The report, Primary carers of people with arthritis and osteoporosis, shows that over 40% of these carers were 65 years or older and 70% had physical problems and limitations of their own, which were sometimes exacerbated by the care giving process.

'We found that often the carers themselves needed assistance with daily activities, such as self-care, housework, and transport and mobility,' Dr Rahman said.

'They also have unmet needs for respite care.'

'Primary carers of people with disability due to arthritis and osteoporosis often see their caring role as a mark of their relationship with the care receiver and many reduce work hours or leave the paid workforce to meet their caring responsibilities,' Dr Rahman said.

'In general, women assume the role of a primary carer more often than men. However this pattern is reversed among carers of people with arthritis, with men making up about 55% of primary carers.'

'One reason for this reversal is that osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are both more common in women than in men, particularly among older age groups,' Dr Rahman said.

Friday 21 May 2010

Further information: Dr Naila Rahman, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1057, mob. 0403 336 293.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1032.

Primary carers of people with arthritis and osteoporosis

(Report summary) (Full report)