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Caring for your family – how to make the most of your options
Our special guest blogger, Sandra, talks about her experiences as a carer for her mother, and has some advice for others who might find themselves in a similar situation.
My name is Sandra and I’m a carer for my mother, who has dementia.
She was diagnosed about 3 or 4 years ago. My sister was caring for her, but she had to move to Sydney. My husband and I decided that for mum, the best thing would be for her to come and live with us.
I work, my husband works, and when my mother came to live with us, we needed extra help. I knew about Silver Chain just generally through the community, but didn’t realise what services they actually had.
When mum was assessed, I received all the package information in the mail but I didn’t understand any of it. I popped in to Silver Chain for some advice, and they said they had a local Social Centre that would would probably be really good for mum and I – mum could go to the centre, and I could still work.
I was lucky enough to meet Sue and Mandy at the Social Centre. They absolutely had all the information I needed there, and helped me make the decision I needed to make – the right decision – which was fantastic.
The Social Centre is like a second family
Mum goes 4 times a week. I drop her off in the morning and head to work and then they drop mum off in the bus in the afternoon, which works great for both of us.
As a carer, it’s very important for me to be able to go to work and feel comfortable in the knowledge that mum’s safe, and I think she really enjoys the company at the centre. Mum’s very social – the staff there are absolutely amazing with her, and she feels loved and secure.
The Social Centre does loads of activities, whether it’s a picnic on a beautiful sunny day or a lunch out in Mandurah, or the movies, it’s endless – I always say, ‘mum you have a better social life than me!’
Another thing they do is nationality days. Mum and Dad migrated from Austria in 1958 and the Social Centre gets people to share their cultures. Julie the cook (she’s amazing!) whipped up a beautiful Austrian menu and mum obviously got great delight out of that.
The staff at the Social Centres are absolutely amazing – I feel a great friendship with them.
That’s one of the reasons I love the Social Centres – they’ve become my friends as well. I feel a sense of friendship with a lot of the staff. They’ve been amazing in helping me get through.
Every day folds into another day when you have someone with dementia at home with you; it’s very challenging. In my situation, sometimes I feel like my mum’s mum. So when I take her to the Social Centre and I see her happy, and being my mum, it makes me feel really good.
She has a good friend there, Penny – they love each other. When mum was hospitalised about a month ago, and when I took her back to the centre, the staff told me that Penny had been worried, and would be so happy to see mum back. It’s lovely to know that mum has made these friendships.
Last year (and coming up this year), the centre had a Carers Lunch, where we get to network with other people in a similar situation. I found it fantastic – you got to connect with other carers; everyone has a different story to tell. I got quite emotional, for being recognised for what I do for my mum, and the staff just absolutely spoilt us. And it’s lovely to know that you’re not alone.
Being a carer is a 24/7 job, and loneliness is one of the biggest challenges for me with mum and dementia – my husband works, and a lot of the care and responsibilities for mum’s care falls back onto me.
Personal care services make a difference
Silver Chain provide personal care for mum, that’s only just started, but we have Penny come during the week, and Karis on the weekend.
Living with dementia, you do find out different traits and my mum is amazing but some days she just doesn’t want to do what I ask! But as soon as the Silver Chain aides arrive she’s happy to see them and goes along with what they need to do. They actually spend time with me as well, which I really enjoy.
To have help with her bathing or personal care, and the sense of security I have with mum being at the Social Centre, it’s a great weight lifted of my shoulders.
Take time to care for yourself
Respite is very important. I find when I do have a day to myself it’s well needed, well needed to recharge my batteries. I think it’s very important for carers to have some respite. I think everyone in a caring situation, especially with dementia, needs a break.
I think some carers don’t know what respite is available to them – until you’re in that position, you don’t think to find what’s out there. Now that I’ve found my help, I’m very happy.
Family means everything to me
Family is everything – I’m one of 7 children and mum was such a nurturer for us growing up – and I think it’s everything for her to be around family too.
To see her with my granddaughter Heidi – it’s such a beautiful relationship. Heidi’s 2, and even though there’s an 84 year age difference, they just have a lovely bond.
It means everything to be able to have my mum at home with me – and to my daughters, my granddaughter, and my husband. I feel I have the support I need now with Silver Chain; I have everything in place.
Get to know your options
For anyone else is this situation, my advice would be: look at the resources that are out there. I’ve found that with Silver Chain, I have everything in the one spot that I need, whether it’s nursing, a package coordinator, the Social Centre, everything’s there in the one spot – to me they’ve been fantastic and I couldn’t care for mum without them.
For more details about any of our care giver support services, call us on (08) 9242 0242 (or 1300 650 803 for country callers) to discuss your needs, or visit Support for family & carers.