Adjunct Professor LYNNE PARKINSON watched her mother die from dementia and her sisters struggle to care for her. Now she heads a research project that is helping carers cope with the challenges.
Caring for someone with dementia is a tough job. Every day brings new challenges for people that look after family and friends with this condition. Not only is it difficult to witness loved ones succumb to this condition that claims the lives of thousands of Australians every year, it can also be debilitating for the carers.
According to Dementia Australia, more than 425,000 Australians are currently living with dementia in Australia, and without a medical breakthrough in the near future, this number is expected to surge to $1.1 million by 2056. The strain on health services will continue to escalate and more and more people will take on the role of carer for sick family and friends.
Although people with dementia account for 52% of all residents of aged care facilities, 70% of people who have dementia live at home and are cared for by family and friends, otherwise known as informal carers. These informal carers provide a vital service for people living with dementia and help relieve the burden on government and private services.
We simply can’t afford to replace them. Therefore, we need to support them as much as we can. We can do this by firstly making sure they stay connected with the world.
Caring for someone with dementia is no easy feat. It’s tiring and isolating, especially for those living in regional, rural and remote areas of Australia.
Our carers are faced with many challenges including coping with the stigma of the illness, the restrictive lifestyle of feeling unable to leave the person they care for, and the guilt of asking for respite. And these challenges are doubled for people living in regional, rural and remote areas where there may not be enough support services for the carers.
That’s where CQUni’s Caring for Carers project hopes to make a difference. Launched in June this year, by the Hon Ken Wyatt, OA MP, the program is six free weekly sessions that use video conferencing to connect primary carers of people living with dementia.
Through a partnership with Prevention First and Global Community Resourcing, the program allows carers to share their experiences, provide peer support and receive information on the issues that impact them on a daily basis. Program participants attend weekly meetings to discuss issues such as navigating the health and social care systems, being an advocate and caring for the carer.
My mother had dementia and I lost her to it. I watched my sisters struggle to care for her until they couldn’t do it any longer and we had to admit mum into a facility. So, I understand the emotional struggles that these carers face.
I didn’t go looking to research this area, in fact, I tried to stay away from dementia research, thinking it was a bit too close to home. However, it’s a huge public health issue, and it sat in my area of interest – social isolation. And now I’m so passionate about his project and keen to see great results for our carers.
We need to support them as much as we can. We need to make sure that they stay connected with the world because that’s a lot of people to not be connected with the world.