Lai Man has been working with VMCH for 17 years now, providing support for those who work tirelessly to look after for their loved ones – carers.
Lai is a case manager with the Carer Support program which works with people who live in Melbourne’s eastern region and care for someone with specific care needs, usually due to age, disability or chronic illness.
How long have you been working for VMCH?
I have worked here since September 2003. I love working for VMCH for its values of compassion and kindness. I am privileged to work in a supportive and resourceful organisation like VMCH, it helps me to help the carers and make good changes to their lives.
Tell us a bit about your role.
Each case manager has new carers allocated to them every week. My job is to provide short-term, one-on-one support to the carers and help them to navigate the service system, link them to more resources for help and regular services, and organise flexible and practical services to support them. Once a carer is settled, I will put them on the monitoring list for general support and finish my involvement from there.
We started the young carer program recently, which is very exciting. Young carers need space and more personalised support; they have lots of challenges given their life stage. The additional role of being a carer can make their life more challenging.
Recently we also commenced a pilot project with YourLink to help older clients to learn how to use iPads to connect with others and use the internet for different things. Lots of our older clients feel very isolated, lonely and disconnected due to COVID-19, and this helps.
What are the challenges for carers that we might not think about? What should we be more aware of?
Sometimes it is hard for us to understand the intensity of stress that our carers experience. There is a complexity of a personal issue, family dynamics, cultures and values involved. What we could help with might be quite limited. We need to humble ourselves and learn to support them, and learn to work with some complicated service systems like NDIS.
What sort of things do our carers need help with?
The need varies with individual carers. In general, they need some consultation and support to get information and services that are relevant for them. As a case manager, I will identify their needs and put together an action plan with them.
Lately, I have been helping carers in giving them information and advice, emotional support due to the lockdown, encourage them to participate in our online carer activities, organise short term in-home care services, arrange funding for health equipment, taxi or meal vouchers, refer them to My Aged Care, help them to apply for NDIS, or liaison with different organisations and providers involved. There are many different ways that we can provide support and assistance.
What sort of changes have you seen over the past 17 years?
We always have different people coming to us, that is the same. But I think we are seeing more people from diverse background over the years, from Chinese, Indian and Sri Lankan background, which reflects the demographic trends of Australia.
What can we do to help carers?
Listen to them and understand their needs. Discuss with them the possible solutions and act on those agreed upon, and also help them to explore and search for more resources and help which are relevant for them.
What is your hope for those who are a primary carer for a loved one?
I hope they would feel supported, believe in themselves, and would be happy to continue their carer role.
For more information about our Carer Support program, visit our website.