National Carers Week puts the spotlight on the 2.65 million Australians who provide care and support for loved ones, including those in aged care.
To coincide with the annual event – this year running from 16-22 October – the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has launched interactive learning modules to support families and friends to continue to provide care and companionship to aged care residents.
Under the banner ‘partnerships in care’, there are also updated resources to encourage and help aged care providers establish programs at their sites.
“Social engagement and continuity of close relationships have a profoundly positive effect on the wellbeing of aged care residents,” said Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson.
Conversely, when social engagement is curtailed – as happened during the aged care Covid lockdowns – the negative impacts are acutely felt.
In future, said Ms Anderson, when there is an infectious disease outbreak at an aged care facility, providers will have a responsibility to ensure the people in their care are kept safe in a way that also upholds the rights of residents and their families.
“A partnerships in care program can help residential aged care providers to uphold the rights of residents, ensuring that they can continue to be supported by someone they choose for care and companionship, while also helping the provider to appropriately manage risks associated with an infectious disease outbreak at a service,” Ms Anderson said.
A partner in care may help with a range of activities, even during periods of an infectious disease outbreak, including:
- participation with exercise
- assistance with meals and leisure activities
- social engagement
- support for someone nearing the end of their life.
Building on the relaxation of public health advice about visitation access for aged care residents, the commission’s resources include information on infection prevention and control before, during and after a visit to an aged care home, along with information on how people can approach a provider about organising a partnerships in care program.
For providers, resources include a factsheet and toolkit to help them establish a partnerships in care program, and to manage their risks and responsibilities.
Caring is a full-time job
A day respite program in Queensland provides welcome support for family carers as well as social connections for people with dementia.
The Bolton Clarke Fernhill Day Therapy in Caboolture operates three days a week delivering short-term respite supported by on-site lifestyle, nursing and allied health teams.
Centring on the therapeutic outcomes and structured programs around mental stimulation and socialisation, the centre offers clients a variety of activities such as brainteasers, laughter yoga, art and drama.
Coral Hicks – who lives with dementia – is a regular attendee. “When I go to the centre for the day, we talk and do things with the group and it’s all entertaining,” she said. “My memory isn’t good anymore, so I’ll often have to ask a few times about things, but the staff are so helpful.”
Coral’s carer is her daughter, Leanne. “I have been a carer for mum for a few years now and she lives in a granny flat at the back of my house, so it’s a full-time job on top of my normal job,” she said.
Her mum’s visits to the Fernhill centre help so much, said Leanne Hicks. “Because I know she is safe, she is with people, and she is enjoying her day.”
“As a carer, it’s really important to have some time to yourself.”
When Stephanie’s mum had a stroke aged 75 it changed her – and her mother’s – life dramatically.
“Mum was always independent and doing pretty much everything on her own, until the day she had a stroke,” said Stephanie.
After which, mum moved in with Stephanie and her family. “It had a huge impact on everything,” she said.
With Stephanie now her mum’s full-time carer, she looked around to see what nearby support services were available. She discovered Hersey Cottages in Marion, South Australia.
Operated by Resthaven Community Respite Services, the site offers day respite and short-term stays for older people in home-like environments.
“Mum has been coming here to Hersey Cottages for about four months, and I have seen such a marked improvement in her everyday life,” said Stephanie.
There are benefits for Stephanie as well. “As a carer, it’s really important to have some time to yourself because it’s a big commitment that you have in your life.”
Her mum’s stays at Hersey allows Stephanie to take strolls on the beach, read a book, or just relax. “It just makes all the difference in your life,” she said, “and in the person you’re caring for.”