Sydney Local Health District is helping carers to feel less isolated
Two years ago Barry Maguire’s wife Bonnie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
“It felt like being thrown in the deep end, but I have had the most incredible support,” said Barry, who is Bonnie’s full time carer.
Before the COVID-19 restrictions, 76-year-old Barry, who lives in Croydon Park, attended a monthly support group for male carers.
“We would sit and share our problems. It makes you realise you’re not on your own.”
Three times a week Bonnie, 76, went to the Karinya Dementia Day Centre in Canterbury, a service run by Sydney Local Health District’s Aged, Chronic Care and Rehabilitation Team.
“The care and attention she received at the centre was absolutely superb. It enabled me to catch up with a few mates, and was just enough time to play 10 or 12 holes of golf,” Barry said.
But when COVID-19 restrictions meant Karinya, and the District’s other day centre Kalparrin had to change the way they offered services, those visits stopped.
That’s when the Aged, Chronic Care and Rehabilitation Team quickly adapted so that they could continue to support people with dementia and their carers through the pandemic.
Some services were expanded and other new ones were introduced, for example, a frozen meals home delivery service and creating packs for carers to use at home with activities designed to engage people with dementia.
“We are giving carers of people who would normally come to our day centres the option of using our in-home respite service instead, to continue to give them a break from their caring role,” Alexandra Carr, Team Leader of the District’s Dementia Respite Team, said.
During these home visits, community support workers spend one-on-one time with people with dementia. Depending on individual needs, this may include gentle exercises, playing games, spending time in the garden, or looking at family photographs to spark memories and conversation.
“This gives carers a few hours to themselves – to have a rest, get out of the house, or talk with family members on the phone. Carers are able to do whatever they’d like to do, knowing their loved one is supported and cared for,” Alexandra said.
“This is especially important for carers because you don’t get the opportunity to have a break when you’re looking after somebody who needs care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Even before COVID-19 social isolation was a problem faced by many carers, but the restrictions have made people feel more isolated.
“To check on carers’ well-being during COVID-19, we have started phoning regularly to see how they’re going. We ask them if they have access to groceries and medication and put them in touch with services if they need further support,” Alexandra said.
Until recently when Bonnie moved temporarily to a residential aged care facility, a community support worker from the District’s Dementia Respite Team visited the couple twice a week, to give Barry a break from his caring role.
“Two and a half hours of respite goes by very quickly, it feels like just 10 minutes, but it makes a difference,” he said.
“I’m so pleased that Bonnie has received care from such brilliant people.”