Caring for our carers

An older Tasmanian’s home care package also provides important respite for their primary carer.

According to Anglicare’s General Manager Home Care Services Connie Bruckard, the opportunity to recharge their batteries helps carers in this vital role: “While our staff are in a client’s home providing support, their carer is free to do something for themselves, like gardening, meeting up with a friend or attending a class,” she says.

A team effort works best

Rosemary Stossich is the primary carer for her parents Olive (89) and Derek (88) Hindle, of Blackmans Bay. She receives vital back-up from her brother, who moved into the flat underneath their parents’ house several months ago – and from Anglicare.

The Hindles first shared their story with us back in 2018, when Olive’s deteriorating health (she has dementia and a chronic eye condition) gave her access to Anglicare’s services under a Level 2 package assessment through My Aged Care. While it made a big difference, the family knew they needed additional support.

Fortunately Olive now has access to a Level 3 package that includes assistance with showering twice a week and a weekly linen change. On Fridays, she enjoys a two-hour outing with her Anglicare support worker that usually includes a coffee and a visit to a nearby park.

“Mum needs eye drops six times a day,” says Rosemary. “My brother does this in the morning after organising breakfast  and I do it twice at night, but having Anglicare coordinate it for the remaining three times during the day is a big help.”

Derek now has a Level 2 package in place with Anglicare. This makes him eligible for a fortnightly cleaning and gardening service and Anglicare has also arranged the purchase of a lift chair and walker.

Time-out from her caring role enables Rosemary to enjoy walks with her husband and their dog and to relax over a cuppa with friends. She is also looking forward to the arrival of grandchild number 5. And like many primary carers, Rosemary also works; in her case as a support worker at a local women’s shelter.

“Anglicare’s home care services have given me my days back,” she says.

“I live fairly close by but the constant coming and going was taking its toll.  Now I’ve got time to relax and refuel and that’s important for my mental health. My advice to anyone in a similar situation is to realise that you can’t do everything on your own. It’s essential that you reach out to a home care services provider like Anglicare – and other family members, if you can – for that essential back-up.”

PHOTO: Derek and Olive Hindle, with primary carer and daughter Rosemary Stossich.

Q AND A WITH CARERS TASMANIA – CARE2SERVE

Did you know that there are 85,500 people caring for a family member or friend in Tasmania alone? Nationwide, the figure is 2.65 million. Rachael Williamson is the acting CEO of Carers Tasmania and its direct service delivery arm, Care2Serve. Care2Serve provides the National Carer Gateway’s support services in Tasmania. As we head towards national Carers Week between 11 – 17 October, we caught up with Rachael to find out more.

Why are Tasmanian carers so important, and what do they do?

All caring circumstances are different. While some carers provide 24 hour support to someone with very high needs, others care for someone who is relatively independent. Carers provide a range of physical and emotional supports to loved ones who have a disability, are frail aged, chronically or terminally ill or have a mental illness. This may include bathing, dressing, feeding, lifting and administering medications. One in six Tasmanians is caring for someone, compared with Australia’s ratio of 1:8. This care has been valued at $1.3 billion (Deloitte Access Economics Report, The Economic Value of Informal Care in Australia 2015).

How has the coronavirus pandemic affected Tasmanian carers?

The experiences of carers varied greatly during the COVID pandemic.  Factors contributing to higher levels of strain for some carers included a reduction in social connection and access to services such as day respite activities; increased caring activities such as medication management, practical supports and financial management; and the challenges of home schooling, digital connection and loss of employment.

The additional contributions made by carers (such as home schooling and increased caring activities) played a direct and significant role in flattening the COVID curve.

How important is it for carers to work on maintaining good mental health?

Caring can be both physically and emotionally demanding. It’s essential that carers prioritise their wellbeing so that they don’t burn out. Ways in which they can do this include accepting informal help from family and friends and socially engaging with others, and accessing formal respite services. For many carers, emotional support from a counsellor can assist with the management of feelings such as stress, anxiety and guilt. Effective communication, setting of boundaries and practicing mindfulness or guided relaxation may also be beneficial.

If we know a carer who we think is having a tough time, what should we do?

Please refer them to Care2Serve – Carer Gateway. We put carers first, connecting them to practical advice and early intervention support services before they reach a crisis point. We assess their needs and discuss their goals and then tailor a suitable service. This support can include planning, advice, information and referrals, counselling (either face-to-face or over the phone or videolink), peer support sessions with other carers, emergency respite, one-off financial support and carer-directed packages.

7 SIMPLE TIPS FOR GOOD SELF-CARE, FROM CARE2SERVE – CARER GATEWAY
  1.  Take a break. Being a carer is often a nonstop job. It’s important to take time out for yourself, to rest and recharge, and just do things for yourself. You can arrange respite care so that someone else takes care of the person you care for while you have a break.
  2. Talk with a professional. A professional counsellor can talk through your worries and teach you how to manage stress. You can contact this phone counselling service to talk with someone. You can also find local counselling services in your area.
  3. Get some help. You don’t have to do everything alone – your family, friends and neighbours might be able to help you. Maybe someone could do some shopping or cooking for you. Maybe someone could drive to doctors’ appointments. Talk to them about simple ways they can make your life easier. You can also talk to Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737 about what support services you can get in your area.
  4. Talk with other carers. It can be good to talk with people who have been through the same things as you. You can join a carer forum to talk with other carers online. You can also join a group in your community; call Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737 to find a local support group.
  5. Relax. We know just saying ‘relax’ won’t make you do it. But using relaxation techniques such as meditation or breathing exercises can really help with stress or poor sleep. Carer Gateway offers 5 recordings of relaxation techniques. You can also use apps such as Smiling Mind or those from Reachout.
  6. Talk with friends. Connecting with other people doesn’t just feel good – it’s important for staying mentally healthy. You should make time to go out for coffee, go for a walk with a friend, join a local group, or even just talk or message on the phone or through social media.
  7. Think about now. Focusing on what’s going on right now – instead of thinking about the past or worrying about the future – has also been shown to reduce stress. Visit the Black Dog Institute for tips on mindfulness or look for a course in your area.
 Would you like more information?

Carers Week activities in Tasmania

A program of activities for carers, to thank them for their magnificent contribution to flattening the COVID-19 curve.

My Aged Care

If you want to check your eligibility and to be assessed for support services, click here to access the My Aged Care website or telephone 1800 200 422 (free call).

Anglicare Home Care services

If you have been approved for a package and you’re ready to find a service provider, find more information on our website or call us on 1800 466 300.

Care2Serve – Carer Gateway

If you or someone you know is a carer and you’re looking for advice or support, call (03) 61 443729, email intake@care2service.com.au or find more information on their website. You can also find Carers Tasmania on Facebook.

Please remember that if you need help or advice urgently, contact Lifeline on 1311 14 or beyond blue on 1300 224 636.

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