There are over 2.8 million carers across Australia who provide unpaid care and support to a loved one with a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, or who are frail aged.
Villa Maria Catholic Homes recognises the valuable work carers do in our community and offers both carers and care recipients a range of respite and lifestyle services.
South East Flexible Respite Services (SEFRS) in Pakenham provides respite and social opportunities to seniors in a warm, friendly environment. The programs are designed to give both the carer, and the person in their care, valuable ‘time out’. Sited at VMCH Shanagolden Retirement Village, the centre opened in March 2015 and is already having a positive impact in the local community.
Lydia Chan is the centre’s Lifestyle and Respite Coordinator and has a passion for the work she does and the people the service supports.
“We currently have 23 clients who attend our centre, which operates Monday to Thursday, and run a monthly ‘out and about’ group,” says Lydia.
“We are here for both the care recipient and their carer. For the seniors, most of whom have a cognitive impairment, we provide day respite and a range of fun, stimulating activities.”
“We welcome people from all cultural backgrounds who live in the southern metropolitan region and have programs designed specifically for the non-English speaking groups,” says Lydia.
“Our staff here are amazing. Their experience and passion makes the program exceptional. And we treat all our clients as part of our family.”
Carer, Bernadette Chandler agrees.
“My mum, Elizabeth, who has Alzheimer’s, comes to the centre every Tuesday and Thursday,” she says. “The staff here have so much compassion, and respect for the clients. They gently encourage them to try activities, but it’s also fine if you just want to relax. And, of course, the fact mum can access this respite means I get some quality time for me.”
Rhonda Watson is another carer who accesses the Pakenham centre and thinks highly of the service and the staff.
“I’ve been my dad, Henry’s, full-time carer for over three years, since he had a terrible fall,” says Rhonda. “He’s been coming to the centre since it opened it has helped us both. It gives me peace of mind knowing dad is well cared for and he gets some social stimulation. I can work in my volunteer job all day and know dad is safe.”
If you are a carer or care recipient in Melbourne’s southern metropolitan region and need some respite or support, get in touch with South East Flexible Respite Services on (03) 5945 3838 or email