Support that helps me to feel ‘normal’

YOU & I: Tracey and her mother Jan, who lives with dementia, attend Blue Care Coopers Plains Respite Care, where they met service manager Nerida and together began a journey that would help them establish a peaceful everyday routine.

Tracey and Jan walk through Blue Care Coopers Plains Respite Care's sensory garden
Tracey and her mother Jan walk through a sensory garden

You & I: Tracey and her mother Jan, who lives with dementia, attend Blue Care Coopers Plains Respite Care, where they met service manager Nerida Pankhurst and together began a journey that would help them establish a peaceful everyday routine.

Tracey’s story

“My Mum has dementia, and I care for her full-time. I needed a respite service that would take care of Mum for a while, so I could do chores, spend one-on-one time with my daughter and occasionally a little time on myself.

The place I first took Mum felt clinical and was a long way from home. Mum didn’t like it, and whenever it was time to set off for respite, she became upset and refused to go.

I saw an article in the paper about a new centre by Blue Care called Coopers Plains Respite Care. It had a picture of a beautiful sensory garden. I took Mum in for a look, and we felt comfortable the moment we walked in.

The staff were friendly and warm, and made us feel welcome. Mum used to be an avid gardener, and her face lit up as soon as she saw the service’s garden. So we switched to Blue Care Coopers Plains for respite, and we both settled in quickly to the new routine.

It’s here that I met Nerida. She and the other staff make Mum feel like a guest, not just another client. Nerida took the time to get to know me and find out how I was coping with the challenges of everyday life as a carer.

I chat to Nerida whenever I see her at the service, including at Coopers Café, which is a support group for people with dementia and their carers. I go with Mum, and it’s awesome to share stories with people going through similar challenges to us, and get assistance or advice from Nerida and the other staff if we need it. It helps me to feel ‘normal’.

Over the years Nerida has continued to be a source of support and assurance to me and Mum, and it’s meant a lot to me to know I can talk things over with her. Mum and I are both a lot happier and settled since we came here.”

Nerida’s story
Nerida, a Blue Care service manager
Nerida Pankhurst, a Blue Care service manager

“Tracey and I first met at a carers’ support meeting at Coopers Plains more than four years ago. We gradually got to know each other, and through our chats, I learned of Tracey’s role caring for her Mum, Jan, and also of the care she provides as a single mother to her 10-year-old daughter.

I don’t see our work as ending with the clients who attend respite – we want to do what we can to support their family as well. So we’ve arranged tailor-made services to help take the burden off Tracey and her family.

Tracey is able to bring Jan in for respite in extended hours, which enables Tracey to spend quality time with her daughter after school finishes for the day. Jan enjoys our respite service and the activities we provide, and knowing that she is calm has helped ease Tracey’s worries too.

Sometimes people living with dementia can feel anxious. We worked with Tracey to find a way to help her Mum when she experienced this at respite: we recorded a reassuring message from Tracey on a tablet computer. We now play this to Jan when she feels distressed, and it comforts and soothes her.

I know that caring for a loved one who has dementia can be emotionally and physically challenging. We invited Tracey and her mother Jan to join our Coopers Café group for carers, which we created based on research and feedback we’d received from carers over the years.

I think being able to share experiences with other carers in a relaxed atmosphere has really helped Tracey find her feet. Knowing that someone is there to talk to you when things are a little hard, whether it’s me or another staff member or a carer at Coopers Café, is comforting.

It’s a pleasure to be involved in Tracey and Jan’s lives, and see the difference we are able to make in Jan’s journey with dementia.”

As told to Sian Scott. Photos by Sheen Media

Read other profiles in this series here

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