Regional carers need more support

Feelings of isolation and loneliness are common among carers. Studies show these feelings are amplified in regional and remote areas, where support can be more difficult to find.

Shepparton resident Debbie Harris has cared for her husband John, who has Parkinson’s disease, for about eight years or more.

She says without access to respite, dealing with stress, frustration and anxiety would become overwhelming.

“I’m starting to see why carers are known to get run down and upset with the world because you think, ‘I’m only 62, there’s still things I want to do’.”

October 14-20 is Carers Week, celebrating the outstanding contribution unpaid carers make to our nation.

Debbie is one of 1,800 carers across Hume supported by non-profit organisation Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH) through respite, information and emotional support and NDIS transition support.

VMCH’s Kialla House in Shepparton provides Debbie with a safe and secure environment for John to stay for up to a few days at a time while she catches up on housework, shopping, visiting grandchildren and catching up on sleep.

“Because John has medication every three hours and other meds in between I’m always on edge. I’ve had to give away a lot of my interests because my whole day revolves around John. You’ve got to be on the ball, as soon as I start to relax I can forget, and with the Parkinson’s and medications it’s so important to be on time or you’re in trouble as they can go downhill very quickly.

“It (caring) affects me greatly, its very restrictive. That’s why respite is good because you can just take a breather and have someone else worry about the medications and so on.”

Knowing John enjoys his time at Kialla House is critical for Debbie.

“It’s like a home away from home. John’s gained friends and they have outings to places I may not have time to take John. Without it, we’d have to access respite in an aged care home and I feel John is too young to go there just yet.”

A ‘Carers in regional Australia’ report has found access to respite care is worse the more remote the region a carer lives in.

Thirty-two per cent of those living in major cities had good access to respite care, compared to 23 per cent of those in inner regional areas, 22 per cent in outer regional areas, and 14 per cent of those living in remote and very remote regions.

Kialla House Coordinator Deborah Pegg says she wishes she had known about Kialla House when she was caring for her mother who had Lewy Body Disease, a common form of dementia.

Juggling three children and her career, Deborah felt “spread thin” across all areas of her life.

“My time spent looking after my mother over the eight years was full on and often stressful and there were times that I quietly broke down from exhaustion. I truly believe now if I had of known about Kialla House, I would have accessed this amazing service, and I may not have broken down when I did because I would have felt supported.”

“Staff provide our guests with a sense of ‘belonging’ through their person-centred approach not only in the house, but through inclusion in the community and activities to meet their interests during their stay. And their carers can take a well-deserved break knowing their loved one is being well cared for in a responsive environment.”

Kialla House will hold a free high tea on Thursday, October 18 from 12-2pm at 84 Waranga Drive, Kialla Lakes for current and prospective clients. If you’d like to come along, call (03) 5832 8444.

For more information on VMCH carer services, call 1300 971 720.

*University of Canberra and Health Research Institute: ‘Carers in regional Australia report, 2016 Regional Wellbeing Survey report.’