• Michelle Meehan | intouch Magazine

Supporting Families During Emotional Times

Caring for a loved one who can no longer care for themselves can be an overwhelming and stressful experience. But the decision to seek outside support to provide additional care doesn’t have to be.

Kerrie and Mark Burns watched their own extended families struggle when they were forced to get help for a loved one whose needs were no longer able to be met by the family members alone.

At the time the only option seemed to be placing the elderly person in a residential care setting – despite their desires to remain at home.

“I was very close to my grandfather, and I just watched what happened over the last years of his life,” Mark said.

“He was living at home with my Dad’s brother, and I just saw the enormous stress that it put on that whole family.

“He stayed at home, that’s where he wanted to be, and it just almost pulled that part of the family apart, we could all see it was happening, but we just did not know there were any options, there wasn’t any other way out for the family.

“Eventually he went to a nursing home for what turned out to be the last three months of his life, and that was not the last three months of his life that he wanted.

“Kerrie went through a very similar experience with her grandmother who was really struggling with dementia and her mother trying so, so hard and eventually, there was a whole bunch of family stress and tension and angst around the requirement to help and do things for them and again that ended in a really difficult decision to put someone in residential care.

“That really sat with us for a long time.

“Well after those life experiences, we became aware that there is Government support for living in your own home. An injection of support into the home would have made an enormous difference in both those situations but it wasn’t even considered an option, we didn’t even know about it.”

Inspired to help other families in the same situation, the couple set up Home Care Assistance Newcastle about 18 months ago. The service provides a range of in-home care services to elderly people, ranging from personal care, domestic assistance and transport, to respite care, nursing support, 24-hour care and companionship.

An approved provider of Government home care packages, the couple focus on providing high-quality personalised support, which allows seniors to remain in their own homes for a long as possible.

Each client is matched to a support worker to ensure consistency of care, while all carers are highly trained, with qualifications in aged or disability care, or nursing.

Mark said changes to Government legislation in February this year mean that funding is now allocated to an individual, rather than a service provider, under a consumer-directed care program that allows the person to take control of how their funds are used.

“Everyone is different, some people need direct support, some people need respite, the range of services they need varies with their health, some people will need help with transport and dialysis and medical appointments, some dementia patients just need someone to take them out or give medication prompts,” he said.

“There’s a whole range of services, and the power is in the range, if you give someone the control and the options then not only are you giving them those services, you’re actually empowering them in their lives.

“You can get an enormous amount of care in your own home, with all the control and values that come along with that, engagement with your community, engagement with your family, and still get a fantastic outcome.”

Kerrie and Mark believe their service offers families a welcome and much-needed place to turn to when they are considering the needs of their loved ones as they age.

“When people call us they are generally at a stage where they don’t know what to do next, either the family tensions are high, or the individual demands or health situation has deteriorated,” he said.

“Often they just don’t know what to do. We make sure we not only give elderly people their immediate needs, which could be showering or mobility, but we also make sure they have the ability to live the fullest life they can.

“This is the first industry I’ve worked in where you’re genuinely making a difference in people’s lives. And they tell you - it’s just so amazingly rewarding … it’s why we’re doing it.”

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