Carers of people with a disability, who have a mental health illness or who are older and have support needs are finding friendship and comfort in like-minded carers as part of a long-established support group in Maroondah.
Formed in 1998, the Maroondah Carers Group is a peer support group open to all carers who reside in Maroondah that provides social contact, information and advice.
While prolonged lockdowns may have prevented carers meeting face-to-face at Kerrabee in Croydon, group members have continued to support each other through monthly online catch-up sessions and as a way of staying connected.
The group, which is co-facilitated by EACH and Maroondah City Council, gives carers the opportunity to share their experiences, gain support from others, and be connected to other resources and services.
This week is National Carers Week (10-16 October), an opportunity to recognise, celebrate and raise community awareness about the diversity of Australia’s 2.65 million carers and their caregiving roles.
The work of unpaid carers contributes enormously to the Australian economy. In 2020, the replacement value of that care was estimated at $77.9 billion, or almost $1.5 million every week.
Deputy Mayor, Cr Nora Lamont said that while carers provided a valuable contribution to society, this sometimes came at a cost to their own health and wellbeing.
“This National Carers Week we acknowledge the tremendous work of the many unpaid carers in Maroondah who make an invaluable contribution to our community. They are everyday mums and dads, partners, children, relatives and friends who help with a variety of personal care, transport, household and other activities,” Cr Lamont said.
“Caring for a friend or loved one can be an isolating and difficult path to navigate and has been made especially hard and stressful during extended periods in lockdown. The time and resources required for caring can impact a carer’s ability to remain engaged in the community, the workforce and interact with their family and friends,” she said.
Latest Census data shows more than 10,800 (12 per cent) of people over the age of 15 in Maroondah provide unpaid care to someone with a disability, long-term illness or who is elderly. Of those carers, more than half are women, while the number of males who provide assistance to a person with a disability, long-term illness or someone who is frail or aged in Maroondah is steadily on the rise.
“Caring for someone can be rewarding, it can also be emotionally and physically challenging. Often carers feel an overwhelming sense of isolation and push their own needs aside. There may also be others who don’t identify themselves as a caregiver or who are thrown into a caring role without realising it,” Cr Lamont said.
“A carer’s emotional health is just as important as the care they provide to someone. It is essential therefore that they look after themselves as well as the person they’re caring for. Try and make time for yourself, even if it’s reconnecting with an activity you used to enjoy like reading or listening to music. When times get tough, it may also help to speak to others,” she said.
Tips for looking after yourself as a carer:
- Remember to nurture your own mental and physical health.
- Remain physically active in ways that you enjoy (i.e. walking, stretching, gardening or playing a team sport).
- Get enough sleep each night.
- Stay in touch with friends and family who can encourage and support you.
- Take up a new hobby or reconnect with an activity you used to enjoy (i.e. cooking, reading, gardening or listening to music).
- Find a local carers support group where you can share experiences, tips, and support each other.