Carers can’t escape the endless self-isolation

Like me, a majority of Australians have been at home in the past few weeks in self-isolation as we battle COVID-19.

Self-isolation has given me time to reflect and consider how this must be the norm for carers on a day-to-day basis as they battle with self-isolation caring for a loved one.

It is now public opinion that a potential side effect of this crisis is people’s mental health and wellbeing and it’s something mental health professionals are scrambling to address amid the uncertainty of COVID-19.

As the spread of coronavirus is now better controlled and managed we are hoping to see a lift in restrictions and progression back to a more normal life. However, in most cases this can’t be said for carers as they will continue with their caring duties and in self-isolation.

According to a report by Carers Australia, there are more than 2.7 million carers in Australia. Carers can be partners, parents, sons or daughters, siblings, other relatives, friends or neighbours.

Some carers provide constant help with things such as bathing, dressing and toileting. Other carers support someone who is fairly independent, but needs emotional support or help with their shopping, housework or finances.

In a Carers NSW 2016 survey, carers’ self-reported wellbeing continues to be significantly lower than the general Australian population. Most carers not only require health services and specific supports for the person for whom they care, but also for themselves. Carers saw respite as a way of getting a break and maintaining their health and wellbeing.

It’s acknowledged that respite care gives carers a much-needed break, however a lot of carers want to use respite services but don’t because they can’t get services that suit them.

A good example of this is if you are a carer for a person suffering from a terminal or chronic illness aged between 18 and 59 there are no respite services available, outside of utilising a nursing home. A completely wrong environment.

That is why a small group of community minded Queanbeyan residents have established an organisation called Respite Care for Queanbeyan and who have a vision to partner with government, business and the local community to build and administer a purpose-built, six-bedroom respite care facility in Queanbeyan.

The facility will support carers and provide short-term professional residential care for people aged 18 to 59 years suffering from a terminal or chronic illness.

To date, the organisation has secured grants of $750,000 from the NSW government and $750,000 from the federal government. This $1.5 million will go close to building the respite care facility. We are also finalising with the Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Council a 30-year lease for a block of land in Queanbeyan.

The final piece to the puzzle is getting NSW state and federal governments to the table to discuss potential funding or part funding of costs for the running of the facility which would be in the vicinity of $1 million a year.

Our carers deserve this respite care facility to be built given they currently benefit our economy, saving governments more than $60 billion every year in paid care… it’s a small price to pay.

Opinion piece by Paul Walshe, published in the City News on 22 May 2020