• co-founder Jenni Perkins

Christmas for Carers

This Christmas give a thought to how to support the carers in your family or close community network. We often take carers for granted – and often carers themselves fail to recognise themselves as carers.

My mother, who had significant memory loss, continued to live in the family home on her own after my father died. A home care package facilitated care and support on weekdays from a small team of supportive staff for almost 8 years. Initially I would drive a three hour round trip every Sunday to have lunch with her and to check that everything was ok. Over time this became two days a week, and then following a hospital stay, when it was agreed that my mother needed 24 hour a day care, my brother and I took turns staying with her, until she died peacefully at home 10 months later.

For the last 10 years of her life I accompanied my mother to her medical appointments and coordinated her health care; I liaised with her home care provider and oversaw her roster of support; I made sure she had suitable shoes and clothing…I did all these things as a daughter – and then one day I was taken by surprise when the home care coordinator referred to me as my mother’s carer. Being a carer had crept up on me. I suspect that this happens to many husbands, wives, sons, daughters, grandchildren who suddenly find that they have become a carer. This lack of recognition by carers themselves, and by others, can mean that carers go unsupported. But proper and timely support is essential – because if carers burnout, then the person they are caring for can be left without the support they need. It is essential to be able to take a break and recharge, without feeling guilty – and to do this in a timely way.

The Australian Government has recently introduced the Carer Gateway (tel 1800 422 737) which can help to link carers into local services and support. Supports available include telephone counselling; online carer support groups; skills courses; respite care and practical help and advice including information on financial support.

So give recognition to the carers you know over Christmas and check in to make sure that they are okay too.

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