National Carers Week

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During National Carers week, people are asked to become involved by attending or hosting an event. This can be a morning tea, afternoon tea, a walk or some other activity to raise awareness of the diversity of carers and caring roles, who they are and what they do.

What is a carer? – Well … a carer is anyone who cares (paid or unpaid) for a friend, family member or client who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support.

Today’s blog is about the ‘unpaid carer’.

Am I correct in thinking that carers come about through necessity and not by choice? I read and re-read this assumption several times and think about how I came to be a carer. I guess it was out of necessity, but also it was my choice  to do it out of love for a family member. So whilst it sounds a bit harsh it also rings true! 2013_05_31_elderly_people_holding_hands_large

Words you hear often are that carers tend to neglect their own needs for that of the person being cared for. To a certain extent this is true, but unpaid carers often find it hard to take time out. In the case of one documentary I watched recently, the carers felt that only they could provide the standard of care needed and because the illness was terminal they wanted their daughter to see their faces in her last moments. This type of caring puts a strain on the whole family and in this situation the two older sisters had been totally neglected … is this fair?

There are many reasons carers work providing unpaid care, from financial necessity to social interaction or down to the fact that placements are just not there.  Recently whilst looking for a place for Sharon I found there was not a place anywhere and our nearest offer was Melbourne which is 1000 km away. After having someone in my life for 42 years and her brother’s life for 60 years we could not dream of sending her there to be alone without any family members.

Although caring can and did have many positive and rewarding aspects, there were times when balancing these two roles was challenging.  Caring can have an impact on many facets of your life in that you can become physically as well as emotionally exhausted. This can be because of suffering,  pain or confusion on the face of the loved one. Time and time again you hear stories of emotional suffering of carers in caring for loved ones with dementia.  If you know a carer give them a hug, cup of tea or even just the time of day, not only during National Carers Week but all year round.

A current Honorary Member of CWA of NSW, Mr Jack Heath, is CEO of SANE Australia. Sane Australia offers the following advice and tips:

  • Caring can lead to stress, depression and other mental health issues.
  • Caring can affect your relationship with your partner or other family members.
  • If you are caring in a couple you may no longer be able to have the physical or emotional life you had together, nor enjoy shared activities or plan for a future together.
  • Find local care and carer services near you
  • Connect with other carers online and get support from our online communities
  • Young carers can find it hard to go to school/college/university or keep up with course work.
  • Give them time. Some people might prefer a text message or email rather than talking on the phone or face-to-face. This means they can get back to you when they feel ready. What’s important is that they know you’ll be there when they’re ready to get in touch. Others may prefer to hear a human voice, with a regular phone call instead.
  • Try to be open-minded and non-judgemental. This can be hard with some of the behavioural changes associated with symptoms. For example, if someone starts staying in bed rather than meeting their responsibilities it can be tempting to attribute this to the individual rather than the condition. It is best to focus on how to deal with the symptoms rather than judge the behaviour
  • Remember you are not to blame if things get difficult and try not to take hurtful comments personally. Some mental health conditions may involve increased anger and irritability that can be difficult for the person to control. At the same time, aggression and violence are always unacceptable. Do not hesitate to call on help in these circumstances, even if this involves the police.
  • If you know someone has been unwell, don’t be afraid to ask how they are. They might want to talk about it or they might not. Letting them know they don’t have to avoid the issue can be helpful.
  • Try to avoid clichés. Phrases like ‘Cheer up’, ‘I’m sure it’ll pass’ and ‘It could be worse’ won’t help and can make the person feel more isolated.
  • Don’t just talk about mental health. Keep in mind that having a mental illness is just one part of a person’s experience. People aren’t defined solely by their health problems.
  • Encouraging the person to do things without being unrealistic or demanding. For example, social contact is very important to our wellbeing and so encouraging outings and meetings with others can be helpful. Bear in mind this can sometimes feel daunting for someone affected by mental illness.
  • Consider the person as a whole. Remember that they have the same range of personal, emotional and sexual needs as anyone else. Is their physical health being looked after by a GP? Are there alcohol or drug problems that needs attention?

If you are concerned about your caring role or its impact on you, contact the SANE Help Centre on 1800 18 SANE (7263) for information, guidance, and referral for support.

See what support is available for carers? Click here or go to https://www.sane.org/families-carers/35-what-support-is-available-for-carers

 

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Inspiration, Inspiration, Wherefore Art Thou …

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Inspiration; defined as something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create¹. Some days it just doesn’t want to be found and on others it can come from the most miniscule thought, word or deed. The middle of the night is always a productive time for inspirational thoughts but remembering them in the morning, or being game enough to action them, often makes you think the sleep would have been more beneficial.lightbulb

I’d been pondering the recent events in my life and whether I would choose just one for this blog or try to incorporate the elements from all of them that I wanted to write about, but an idea of how to connect them, remained elusive. As fate (or luck) would have it I happened to be involved in a conversation where others were verbalising their thoughts on frequently being plagued by a lack of inspiration and as is often the case, one comment lit the proverbial light-bulb. So here we go: a blog about things that I’ve found inspiring over the last week.

Bush ingenuity: Whether it’s manufacturing a machinery part from scrap or (most recently) repairing a “plugger” with toothpick and ring-pull, combining necessity and imagination to create an alternate solution for the problem at hand, is always inspiring. The ability to use the tools and equipment that may be available for even a temporary fix to the immediate problem is a skill fast disappearing in our “throw-away” world where almost anything is available for purchase 24/7. Living where we do (i.e. no shops close by, let alone 24/7 ones) I frequently see Jeff and the boys create something out of nothing and I’ve been so impressed over the years that it’s also inspired me to test my own bush skills occasionally.
Pictofigo_FriendshipThe bonds of friendship: I spent the weekend with four girlfriends, all of whom I have known for over thirty years. We shared all sorts of experiences in our early twenties when life was less complicated and the body more agile but over time we gradually drifted away to lead new and more complex lives in different places with husbands, children, work, study and a thousand other things that occupy the time of busy women and mothers. During those years we maintained some minimal contact but generally were not overly involved in each-other’s lives and rarely saw each other.

Several years ago we juggled diaries and eventually organised a get-together that was so fantastic we have duplicated it several times since. We are all still busy people but it is inspiring to realise that each time we meet our friendships are strengthened, not by the quantity of time we spend together, but the quality of the limited time we know we have and (as one of the girls messaged on Tuesday) validates why we became friends in the first place. It reinforces the notion that true friends do not have to physically share each-other’s lives to remain connected and comforting to know they will always be “there”.

Leading by example: I am in Hobart this week for a meeting between State and Territory Presidents and the Executive of CWA of Australia to help set the direction of the National body for the coming year. It is always inspiring to work with peers who are equally committed to not only furthering the objectives of The Country Women’s Association, but growing the organisation in ways that will enhance the impact of the work we do.

The CWA is evolving and has its sights set firmly on the future to ensure support and advocacy continues for women, their families and communities, particularly those in rural and remote areas of the country.

So there you have it; my different forms of inspiration and where I found them.

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If you have trouble locating yours perhaps the response to my online query for inspirational quotes will help. It is from Eleanor Roosevelt, who apparently once said “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Food for thought …

¹Merriam-Webster

Médecins Sans Frontières

The CWA of NSW has had a long association with Médecins Sans Frontières and we recently received the following letter thanking us for our on-going support and giving us a glimpse of how our donations have been put to use. This is one of the diverse causes that CWA of NSW is happy to be able to support.

If you would like to find out more about Médecins Sans Frontières you can view their website: http://www.msf.org.au

Aweil, maternal and child health care

Médecins Sans Frontières is an independent, international medical humanitarian organisation that provides emergency medical assistance to victims of armed conflict, epidemics or natural disasters, and to populations that have little or no access to health care – regardless of race, religion or gender.

Founded over 40 years ago, Médecins Sans Frontières currently has 25,000 national and international staff, including over 150 Australian and New Zealanders a year, working in challenging situations in over 60 countries. The teams are composed of specialists such as doctors, nurses, anaesthetists, logisticians and laboratory technicians.

We respond to the needs of people affected by conflict, floods and drought, run emergency feeding programs during nutritional crises, organise mass vaccination programs to prevent epidemics spreading, and tackle neglected diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, measles and tuberculosis.

None of this would be possible without the incredible support that we receive from our donors and we are so grateful to the Country Women’s Association of NSW (CWA) who is one of our major contributors. Since 2008 CWA has donated approximately $140,000 to help people affected by conflict and disease, the latest donation being $55,000 in November 2013.

Recently your funds have been used in a number of key areas around the worlds and I would like to share the following with you from the field.

Our teams continue to work on both sides of the Iraqi border, responding to the urgent health needs of the people who have fled the violence. Médecins Sans Frontières is currently running mobile clinics and setting up health facilities in transit camps, as well as in camps for internally displaced people.

While we are able to respond to these immediate crises, our many other programs continue. In addition to our work in places such as Iraq and West Africa, we recently received news from our colleagues in South Sudan which I would like to share with you.

Following the recent cholera outbreak in Eastern Equatoria State in South Sudan, we are happy to be able to report that numbers of admissions to our clinics are falling. This particular project alone has treated almost 1,400 people and since April this year Médecins Sans Frontières has overall treated almost half of the 5,561 cases of cholera reported countrywide.

I also would like to take this opportunity to share with you the news of our recent international launch of the multimedia documentary, “The Reach of War” which aims to bring the attention back to the conflict in Syria. The documentary feature explores a single day in the life of the ongoing conflict through the perspective of medical workers, patients and refugees. You can view this at: http://issuu.com/msf_picturedesk/docs/thereachofwar

It is thanks to your generous support that our field workers can continue providing medical assistance to many people in the world who would otherwise go without. For this we are truly grateful to you. On behalf of our teams on the ground and our patients, thank you so much for your support.

Ruth Molloy
Major Gifts Manager

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