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November 2001

Balance the care

By Maree McEvoy,
Ideas That Work.

2.3 million Australians are providing care for family members and friends who are disabled, frail aged, or chronically ill, mentally or physically. Our carers need support. And they need to be encouraged to use every form of support there is available to them.

When you become a carer, your whole life changes and everything is thrown out of balance. Finances are affected, most carers canít work, family relationships change under stress, friends often donít understand the pressure carers are under or are afraid to reach out, emotional relationships change, dreams and hopes are lost, and no matter how much carers do they frequently feel guilty that itís not enough.

A new video, "Balance the Care", addresses these very serious issues, which confront carers, in an honest but sympathetic manner. The video also encourages them to try and introduce more balance into their lives by spreading the load of caring and particularly by looking after themselves. It takes a positive and active approach to the often overwhelming situations which carers face everyday.

The issues raised by the carers are grouped into eleven themes such as "Iím a person, not just a carer", "everything changes", "open up and talk about it" and "building on strengths and skills". These themes offer insights and an understanding of what carers are going through which helps carers and also health professionals.

The result of being a carer is often emotional and physical exhaustion, which frequently results in unnecessary tragedy Ė the breakdown of the carerís own health. "Balance The Care" encourages people to ask for help, from family, friends and organisations.

"You cannot do it on your own" says Bruce Petrie, one of the people in the video. Bruce is a fulltime carer for his wife, Andy, who has Motor Neurone Disease. As well as assistance from family and friends, Bruce gets 34 hours a week government funded support with four different carers coming to their home during the week. But this still leaves him little time for himself. "It sounds a lot, but that just gives me enough time to tidy the house, catch up on some sleep or do the shopping."

"You must allow time for yourself," says Gwen Molam who cared for her husband Tom, for over ten years, after he suffered a heart attack and subsequent lack of oxygen to the brain. This incident left her husband with brain damage and severe behavioural problems. Gwen cared for him fulltime as she also brought up six children on her own. For Gwen, taking a walk along the beach was a simple way of allowing some time for herself.

The video allows carers to share and explore the experiences of other carers and know that they are not alone. It lets them know that itís understandable to feel loss and grief, everyone has their ups and downs, isolation is a major problem facing carers and it can help to open up to other people.

Beth and Peter McDonald, are on the emotional roller coaster of caring for their daughter who has a mental illness, where there is always the hope that the drugs might work. They have learnt never to acquiesce to the medical system. "We tried very hard to have our voices heard by the health professionals." Beth and Peter also know the importance of maintaining a balance in their lives. " I have two other children and four grand children, I work part time in a store and I visit my mother in the country regularly. There comes a time when you have to sit back and say part of me needs to be around for my daughter but I also have a life."

Ricky Fagan is a young man who works fulltime and also cares for his wife Katrina. "I thought weíd be pushing a pram by now, not me pushing her in a wheelchair" he says in the video.

Geraldine Yun who cares for her son David who has an acquired brain injury says, "itís important that carers are listened to, we know the person we are looking after, and we must also look after ourselves."

"Balance the Care" was commissioned by the Carer Respite Centre Southern Region which also commissioned the video "Respite Helps You Find The Balance". This video concentrates specifically on the range of respite services available and strongly encourages carers to use the services which are appropriate for them.

Photo of Charles Tingwell - 29542 Bytes

Everyone should use respite

"Respite Helps You Find The Balance" is presented by Charles "Bud" Tingwell, one of Australiaís most distinguished actors and himself a former carer. Budís empathy and understanding gently guides the viewer through the different types of respite care available, such as day centres, residential or holiday respite.

Val Pugh, who cared for her husband George, advises viewers " Donít be guilty. Use respite services. It will be good for you and good for the person you care for. Everyone should use respite. Itís the only way I survived."

Anne Davey, Residential Services Manager/Director of Nursing at Spurway Residential Community states "As well as encouraging carers to use Respite Care, this video is also a really good learning tool for all staff involved with people having respite care".

The video has been used by Community Care Workers, Hospital Discharge Departments, Social Workers, Nursing Homes, Day Care Centres, Disability and Aged Peak Bodies, Palliative Care, TAFE trainers, Local Government, Public and Private Hospitals, Community Health Centres, Respite Centres, Libraries, Carer Resource Centres and Aged Care Assessment Teams.

"Respite Helps You Find The Balance" was made for Carer Respite Centre Southern Region and funded by the Department of Veteransí Affairs.

Enquiries about both videos can be made to Maree McEvoy at Ideas That Work:
Phone 9525 1407

'Listen to Carers' - Carers Week 21 - 27 October 2001:

Carers Week is a national awareness week held across Australia during October each year. Carers Week aims to raise awareness of the valuable role that carers play in our community, providing an opportunity for carers to get together, and to share information and ideas.

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