Caring for the carers

An Aspire4Life Regional Assessment Service assessor identified the often forgotten needs of a carer, struggling with life at home alone after their partner entered full-time care.

When a person is moved into full-time residential care, they are usually entering a ready-made community with 24-hour support. However at Aspire4Life, we recognise that the person’s partner faces an equally significant change in their life. After often years of caring for a partner, they suddenly face a future with a lack of purpose, and they can become physically and emotionally isolated.

Aspire4Life Regional Assessment Service (RAS) assessor, Keiren Freeman, recently saw this situation firsthand. On the mid north coast of New South Wales, 80-year-old John was suffering from depression and social isolation after his wife was admitted into care. Contacted to visit John for an assessment, Keiren was touched by John’s story and honoured to have the opportunity to make a genuine difference. By recommending a number of small, but significant, supports she was able to help change the trajectory of this client’s life.

John had been caring for his wife for seven years, prior to selling the family farm and moving into town so his wife could access full-time care. “Often we see that while the person taken into care is being well looked after, the carer left behind at home is suddenly cut off from visitors and support,” said Keiren. “Left to their own devices these people can become depressed and lonely, while also grieving the enforced separation from their life partner.”

During the 12 months following his wife entering care, Keiren met with John on two occasions to assess and monitor his progress. Keiren immediately identified that John was severely depressed and he openly admitted that he had lost the will to go on. John also revealed that their mutual friends never came to visit anymore.

With John suffering from carer burnout and isolation, and his own physical decline, Keiren was able to secure a Commonwealth Home Support Program for him as a result of the RAS. Keiren recommended that John speak to a psychologist to help him work through his change of situation and she also suggested weekly Group Social Support to help him get out and meet people. At the same time, physiotherapy was arranged to address John’s pain and mobility issues.

John enthusiastically embraced each of the care program recommendations and a very different man greeted Keiren many months later at her follow-up assessment. “John met me in the driveway with a big hug and I could see the change in his face,” said Keiren. “John had been on a fishing holiday with a mate to recharge his batteries and he continues to meet with his psychologist for a weekly coffee and a chat. Plus each Friday he is collected for a social bus trip with other like-minded people.

“It’s positive outcomes like John’s that make our job at Aspire4Life so worthwhile,” said Keiren. “Just small changes and initiatives can make such a difference. This is my most favourite positive outcome, because from a simple assessment to identify John’s cares and concerns, his life has now changed so dramatically for the better including now, purchasing a boat to go fishing and obtaining his zest for life once again.”

At Aspire4Life our trained Home Support Assessors take a genuine interest in the lives and aspirations of individuals seeking entry-level home support through the Commonwealth Home Support Program. Our assessors can support people to live in their chosen community, by recommending the most appropriate support services to build their capacity, independence and connectedness.

The names used throughout this article have been modified to protect identity due to privacy reasons. 

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