Celebrating carers

This week is National Carers Week – an annual event which recognises, celebrates and raises awareness of those who care for a family member or friend.

This week is National Carers Week – an annual event which recognises, celebrates and raises awareness of those who care for a family member or friend.

Someone like Nicole. The Bendigo resident is one of Australia’s 2.65 million carers. Nicole is a full-time carer for her daughters Izzie and Abby who live with additional needs. She also provides support for her ageing parents and two grandchildren who live with autism.

With so much to think about and organise, the biggest challenge for Nicole is sleep. “I have a lot of trouble trying to shut down at night because I know all the things I’ve got to do the next day,” she said. “You just have to be on your toes all the time for whatever might happen.”

Abby and Nicole

Dealing with her daughters’ separate needs is quite the juggling act. “Izzie has sensory issues and likes to play with messy things like play doh and slime, while Abby has a germ phobia, so I have to try to keep everything in order and clean,” said Nicole.

“Abby also has bad anxiety and has trouble leaving the house. So, for example, if she needs a new pair of shoes, I’ll have to buy a few pairs, bring them home for her to try on, then take the others back.”

With so much on the go, Nicole is grateful of the support she receives from aged and disability services provider VMCH. The non-profit, faith-based organisation  supports 3,000 carers from across Victoria by providing home care, flexible respite, and education and information.

VMCH also host outings for carers such as movie nights and luncheons. These respites are a “godsend” said Nicole. “It’s such a good break. I can go and not think about all the jobs and housework I have to do at home and just enjoy myself. It’s also interesting to hear other carers’ stories and know you’re not alone out there – we’re all facing similar battles.”

VMCH carer services manager Fredricka Gonsalves said the outings provide many benefits. “Having a break helps carers deal with common challenges including social isolation, carer burnout, finding time for self and getting the right support when they need it. The work carers do often goes unnoticed, but it is essential in maintaining their loved one’s independence and connection to their community.”

Nicole urges other carers to seek support. “Reaching out and asking for help can be hard, but don’t be embarrassed,” she said. “There is help out there, and if getting support makes your life easier, you should do it.”

Supporting young carers

Carers can also seek assistance from Carers Gateway – an Australian Government program that offers free services and support.

Aged and home care operator Your Side is also a Carer Gateway services provider. The independent not-for-profit organisation offers carers peer support, counselling, as well as outings and activities.

This week, Your Side is paying tribute to young carers – people up to 25 years old who dedicate their time and energy to assist family members or friends with disabilities, mental health challenges, chronic conditions, substance dependence, or frailty.

Cheryl

Nine-year-old Cheryl is one such young carer. She helps care for her mum, who struggles with anxiety, and her grandparents, both of whom have dementia. Cheryl assists with household chores, food preparation, and supports her grandparents with mobility.

Despite the challenges, Cheryl enjoys helping her family. “When I was little, my grandparents cared for me, and now I am caring for them. It’s just really nice to help people you love,” she said.

Ben, aged 15, helps care for his older brother, who has an intellectual disability. Balancing his caregiving duties with school was a challenge at first for Ben, impacting his academic performance and social life.

Ben

However, he found support through the Carer Gateway young carers program. Through the program Ben receives tutoring, which has improved his school performance. He also gets to enjoy various social activities.

“My grades have got heaps better at school and I go to a lot of young carer events which is cool. I loved the pizza-making event we did the most,” said Ben. “If you are a young carer, you should check it out.”

To learn more click here.  

National Carers Week 15-21 October

Main image: Young carers enjoying an outdoors activity

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Tags: Fredricka Gonsalves, national carers week, vmch,

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