This report provides statistical information on the primary carers of people with disability due to arthritis and osteoporosis, the nature of the support they provide, and the effect that this caring role has on their own health and wellbeing.

Arthritis and osteoporosis were the main reasons for severe or profound disability in an estimated 611,000 Australians in 2003. Of these, an estimated 50,000 Australians received help from primary carers for activities of daily living.

Family members were the largest source of primary care, mostly caring for a spouse or partner. Usually living with the care recipient, they provided assistance with a wide range of activities, and helped the recipient cope with their restrictions and maintain independent living.

A large proportion of primary carers (43%) of people with severe or profound disability due to arthritis were older adults (aged 65 years or over). More males (54%) than females took on this role.

The motivation of primary carers of people with arthritis or osteoporosis associated disability was admirable. They saw their caring role as a fact of life and a duty to the relationship. Many had quit their job early or reduced work hours to meet their caring responsibilities.

Many primary carers of people with arthritis and osteoporosis were older, and had their own physical problems and limitations of activities, which were sometimes exacerbated by the caregiving process. Often these carers themselves needed assistance with activities of daily living such as self-care, housework, transport and mobility.

The carers outlined a range of unmet needs, in particular respite care on a short-term or monthly basis. More than a quarter indicated their need for additional physical assistance.