Australian Support Dogs ASDOG

Australian Support Dogs ASDOG
Beastie trying her best to impress but she’s not an assistance dog, she’s a hairy pal!

Australian Support Dogs ASDOG

Our own dog performs no assistance role, she is solely a loved family member. I have often said that she could open the fridge door and make a ham sandwich but only if it was for her own consumption! That’s her level of self interest. We call our dog ‘Beastie’ as she has a shaggy coat that along with her large size gives the appearance of being truely unruly. She is in fact a sweetheart but quite beyond training to assist anyone. I mention Beastie because she is my point of reference, she highlights to me the skills and obedience required to be an assistance dog. Assistance dogs are really rather special at what they do which is why I’m so supportive of this organisation.

Australian Support Dogs ASDOG is a not for profit organisation that raises, trains and places accredited assistance dogs with people with disabilities. Assistance Dogs learn an array of skilled tasks to give their recipients the remarkable gift of greater independence and enhanced quality of life.

I have met several assistance dogs alongside their owners and they make remarkable teams. With an assistance dog the owner can achieve a task or chore that eludes the individual alone. Task attempts and achievements all need a doggie treat but that’s a fair reward!

The support dog recipients that I have met have also commented on the companionship the dog offers as well as its task orientated skills. A dog is widely known as man’s best friend, an assistance dog becomes a working best friend as we succumb to their hairy charm.

Australian Support Dogs – What they do

ASDOG provides professionally trained assistance dogs to people with disabilities free of charge. Each puppy progresses through a 2 year training program to prepare them for their future role as an assistance dog. Beginning in the home of a volunteer puppy raiser, the assistance dog journey is founded on a happy home environment and an abundance of social opportunities! Dogs in training then participate in a 12 month advanced program of intensive obedience, skilled tasks and public access training before being matched with a recipient and undergoing the team training required for a proficient working partnership.

Australian Support Dogs – How they do it

ASDOG was established with the generosity of public donation and a compassionate and dedicated volunteer base. Today they continue their proud history of giving back to the community that supports them. ASDOG sincerely thanks its supporters on their website, supporters who give the puppies the rewarding opportunity of growing up to be accredited assistance dogs.

Monetary Donations

ASDOG could not raise and train assistance dogs without the support of the general public. With no government funding, community support forms the foundation of the organisation. Donations make it possible for them to continue this service provision for people with disabilities. Please donate here.

Further Reading – Not a dog blog

 Australian Support Dogs ASDOG
Good try Beastie, you’re a hairy pal !

Caring for a loved one?

Caring for a loved one, I am. See my story here –

Are you caring for a loved one?

Caregivers are the family members and friends who help their loved ones with a range of tasks from paying bills or driving to doctors, to personal care such as bathing and dressing, to medical care such as administering medication.

“Caregivers often find themselves in this role without preparation or education and all while juggling their own lives,” said United Way Caregivers Coalition Manager Robin Ennis. “Caregivers within our communities should have access to the supports and resources they need to sustain themselves as caregivers.”

Resources help you care for your loved one

Resources help unpaid caregivers who assist loved ones of any age who are ill, frail or living with a disability or mental illness. Access to explore topics that provide family caregivers with valuable information from local experts and connections to local resources is imperative.

Investigate topics to optimise health whilst caring :

Here is the United Way Caregivers Coalition’s “Pathways for Caregivers” – This free guide contains information, ideas and support for providing care for loved ones. There are separate sections on aging, disabilities, and mental health issues. The guide is available online at While written to assist caregivers in the New Jersey (USA) region, much of the contents are applicable to caregivers throughout New Jersey and beyond!

In Australia see CarersNSW

Caring for a loved one.

Being aware of existing resources, even if provided elsewhere, can be beneficial as it initiates the thinking the same resources may be available near you.

Last but not least – self care is pivotal to carer health.

Look after yourself so that you can look after others optimally.

Read – Self care to ensure you remain robust physically and mentally.

Read – Self care – Self care can be 5 minutes with a cup of tea or a date with the hairdresser either way we need to spend a moment on ourselves to ensure we are robust and healthy to meet the demands of our varied roles.

Caring for a loved one?

Coping Strategies for Carers Addressing Acute Traumatic Injury.

Are you sitting in an intensive care unit (ICU) with a loved one who has sustained a traumatic injury. I sat in that seat 7 years ago when my daughter Emily had a ski ing accident that rendered her quadriplegic.

Listed below are coping strategies.

As a registered nurse and carer I realised the wealth of knowledge I’d gained through experience so I wrote the book I wanted to read when I was searching for answers in a tragedy.

I have learnt that we are more similar than different. We share similar worries and concerns so each chapter of my book addresses an issue that is probably debated in hospital waiting rooms around the world.

You are the most important person to your loved one and you need to advocate and action many complex issues moving forward – don’t burn out at the start. Coping with trauma injuries within a family or with a friend takes energy and focus so think of it as a marathon endeavour not a sprint.

Coping Strategies

Surround yourself with positive supporters and talk to professionals if you have concerns. Seek assistance early before a crisis arises. And realise you don’t have to cope alone – there’s help – investigate resources available to you. See reading and resources below.

Coping Strategies – Key thoughts for reflection :

  • It’s important not to let an injury define a person’s capabilities.
  • There are ways you can work around any injury to make it possible for differently-able people to do anything, to continue to do the things that they want to do.
  • Traumatic injury is heartbreaking but with time, care and resources individuals and families move forward.
  • Ultimately my role was guided by Emily’s goals. My own carer goal was to empower her to be exactly who she is and enjoy her life in the way she chooses because she’s still completely Emily.
  • Although science engenders great hope for the future we must take care to live now, in the present.  Seven years on Emily is living life to the full. Emily’s back at work, she’s on the bus, she’s back up at the bar ordering cocktails, she’s travelled in Australia, America, Europe and Asia. She’s independent, capable….and in love!
Coping Strategies

“Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.” – Robert H. Schuller

COPING STRATEGIES for Carers Addressing Acute Traumatic Injury.

  • Slowly take a deep breath to calm yourself through fluttering panics or chin wobbles.
  • Solo 24-hour vigils are unsustainable; take turns if possible.
  • Take a break, walk away from the bedside to gather perspective and revitalise.
  • Get real sleep in a bed if possible as rest helps you think more rationally.
  • Eat small meals even if you don’t feel hungry as you need to fuel yourself.
  • Restrict intake of caffeine and alcohol as they can heighten anxiety.
  • ICUs are reactive, dealing with unstable, complex situations that are unsettling for everyone. Talking can be calming but make sure you talk to an experienced counsellor or consultant.
  • Catastrophic trauma needs endurance, so pace yourself.
  • Getting into rehabilitation is not a race; healing time in the ICU is important.
  • Delegate. A friend arranged for Qantas ground crew to walk me through LAX when I travelled through to Chicago. Anxiety, fear and sleep deprivation inhibit coping ability so accepting help is essential (see Chapter Three in Suddenly an Everyday Carer).
  • ICUs don’t usually allow flowers or pot plants for sanitary reasons. Helium balloons can be rejected as flammable so disseminate that information through your pyramid of communication (see Chapter Three in Suddenly an Everyday Carer ). Flowers and balloons are wonderful later in rehab.
  • The future hasn’t happened so don’t dwell on it. Focus on what’s in front of you today.
  • You don’t have to understand everything today.
  • Cling on to hope and don’t let it go.

Further reading and resources

Toll-free hotlines are available in most countries for anyone in emotional distress:

  • Lifeline crisis support (Australia) 13 11 14
  • Telefonseelsorge (Germany) 0800 111 0 111
  • Lifeline 24-hour telephone counselling (New Zealand) 09 5222 999
  • The Samaritans crisis support (UK) 116 123
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA) 1 800 273 TALK

Inspirational Women Online Showcase 2019

Inspirational Women Online Showcase 2019
I aim to raise awareness through this online showcase enabling others to positively identify as carers.   

Inspirational Women Online Showcase

I was asked by CarersNSW to make a short video showcasing myself as a carer, aiming to raise awareness of my role, enabling others to positively identify as carers.

The home-made video details my story, highlighting Emily and my health and well-being as individuals. Presenting my book as an achievement within my caring journey. And ultimately inspiring women and girls to see caring as a positive role.

Inspirational Women Online Showcase – Rachel

The Inspirational Women Online Showcase videos touch on the three focus areas of the NSW Women’s Strategy: My video is in – participation and empowerment.

Inspirational Women Online Showcase – Rachel

Hi. I’m Rachel James and I’m a carer.

My daughter, Emily, had a snowboarding accident that rendered her quadriplegic in 2012. Emily’s spinal cord injury was devastating as it changed everything for her, but it also changed my life as I suddenly became her everyday carer.

  • My attitude has been to positively reinforce Emily’s mental strength; she ceased to walk but remains incredibly capable.
  • My task has been to reassure Emily that she can adapt without halting her living life to the full.

My caring role includes:

  • Being a facilitator.
  • I assist and enable Emily.
  • I ensure she has choices, opportunities and makes her own decisions.

I don’t relish Emily being defined by her accident, and I see myself holistically as a wife, mother, sister, daughter, a working registered nurse, a volunteer at lifeline….. AND a carer. 

I retain a clear sense of self, independent with a caring aspect to my life and ensure I practice self care.

I have reflected on what I overcame and learnt during the process of accepting my role as an everyday carer. It was so profound that I wanted to write to others who sadly would walk the same path through trauma. I started a blog journaling my day to day progress.

This blog developed into a book addressing common challenges within trauma, with an empathetic approach to grief, denial, anger and the emotional negotiation process towards acceptance, suggesting coping strategies through each chapter.

It’s 7 years since I became an everyday carer. I have learnt many things but namely that life is a bunch of random events, somethings can’t be fixed. Somethings HAVE to be accepted.

  • To move forward I had to adapt.
  • I learnt that it’s good to talk and I have also learnt it’s good to listen!

I am happy to report that Emily and I have active independent lives, we live along side each other with purpose and worth, joy and love.

I aim to raise awareness through this online showcase enabling others to positively identify as carers.   

Inspirational Women Online Showcase – Rachel

My video is in – participation and empowerment.

The videos can also be viewed on our Youtube Channel Inspirational Women playlist:

Further Reading – Supporting Carers

Read – Carers – Self Care

Suddenly an Everyday Carer – buy the book

Carers + Employers – A New Initiative.

CarersNSW has launched a progressive new initiative Carers + Employers. I was asked to sit on the Project Management Group as a carer representative so I’m delighted to announce the Carers + Employers initiative launched on 1st March.

Carers + Employers Initiative

Carers + Employers – A New Initiative.

This new initiative has been developed with both NSW and Commonwealth Government funding aiming to support workplaces to become more carer friendly, as well as developing a network of employers with improved employment outcomes for carers. The number of carers in the community is set to rise as population ages, and Australians live longer and retire later.

Carers + Employers Initiative – Accreditation.

Juggling both paid and unpaid work is very stressful. Many carers struggle to balance these two roles. Carers + Employers initiative is the first program in Australia that formally accredits carer-friendly employers.

The Carers + Employers initiative program has an accreditation framework that recognises employers that are actively supporting paid work for people with caring responsibilities. There are three levels of accreditation.

  1. Activate
  2. Commit
  3. Excel

Employers that join the program will become part of a network that has access to a dedicated website and member resources. Becoming an Accredited Carer Employer contributes to staff wellbeing, workforce management and wider corporate social responsibility.

There are many ways an organisation can better support carers in their workforce. Strategies do not have to be costly or require major organisational changes.

Carers + Employers Initiative – Supporting carers works for everyone.

Here are 10 tips for a carer-friendly workplace

  1. Enable staff with caring responsibilities to identify themselves.
  2. Develop a supportive culture so carers feel comfortable disclosing their caring responsibilities.
  3. Consult your workforce.
  4. Make it easy for carers to find out what support is available, and how it can be accessed.
  5. Promote carers leave entitlements. Explore flexible leave options.
  6. Promote flexible working arrangements. Ensure staff are aware of carers rights to request flexible working arrangements under the Fair Work Act.
  7. Deliver training so that support is consistently offered. Line managers should understand the challenges faced by carers, and the policies available.
  8. Monitor progress and adjust support as necessary.
  9. Explore opportunities such as offering career breaks, promoting carer-specific return to work programs.
  10. Provide practical support such as quiet rooms, a car space, peer support group, online forum or “lunch and learn” education sessions can be useful.

Carers + Employers Initiative – A Business Case

The business case for the Carers + Employers initiative

  • Improved staff retention.
  • Reduced recruitment and training costs.
  • Reduced stress, sick leave and absenteeism.
  • Improved staff moral and engagement.
  • Increased productivity (1).
carers + employers initiative
Carers +Employers Initiative – works for everyone.

Finally If you would like more information about the program please visit the dedicated website:

For organisations wanting more information about the initiative please email:

Further reading regarding carers – Caring is not an isolated activity

(1) Supporting Working Carers: The Benefits to Families, Business and the Economy, Final Report of the Carers in Employment Task and Finish Group, HM Government, Employers for Carers and Carers UK (2013). Evidence was based on research with 200+ employers in the UK.

The Inaugural Royal Rehab Alex Ommanney Prize in Social Work was awarded to Emily James

The inaugural Royal Rehab Alex Ommanney Prize in social work being  awarded to Emily James by Stephen Lowndes, CEO Royal Rehab.

This prize was awarded to Emily in 2018. I didn’t post the news initially but realised recently a delayed post took nothing away from her success.

Emily won the prize with an essay addressing how her experience would influence her practice as a Social Worker. Her writing is honest and insightful so I have inserted some snippets of her prize winning submission to raise awareness of a social workers role.

Social Work – Emily’s First Point

Following my accident I suddenly became part of a minority group, a group with barriers and began to start hearing the word ‘no’ more often. ‘No you can’t have that’, ‘no you can’t do that’, ‘no you can’t go there’. I have belonged to the world of disability for a minute compared to others, nevertheless I am already frustrated at the discrimination and oppression I have experienced and witnessed. In 2015, 18.3% (4.3 million) of Australians reported having a disability and within that population almost one in twelve reported experiencing discrimination based on their disability (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016).”

Social Work – Emily’s Aim

In my future role as a social worker I want to work towards removing the ‘cannot’ and reducing the discrimination and oppression experienced by individuals with a disability.”

Social Work – Human Rights Model

Human services have greater emphasise on removing barriers to improve opportunities and access for all disabled individuals. This approach is known as a social or human rights model and is important because it prioritises societal change and empowers people with disabilities (PWD) to view themselves as citizens that face discrimination and not individuals that are sick and invalid (Shakespeare, 2014). Nevertheless discrimination and oppression remain and disabled individuals still experience inequalities in health, education and employment.”

Social Work – Client Driven

My belief remains in the importance of social inclusion policies and anti-oppressive practice that are client driven.”

Social Work – Moving Forward

Emily’s thoughts progress: “I must keep in mind that despite the work of disability activists, many of whom are themselves disabled, the Human Rights Model has been criticised for failing to consider the individual’s experience. Therefore, it is imperative that in utilising this approach I endeavour to include PWDs in the discussions around how the social and economic structures of their environment influence their experiences.”

Social Work – Emily’s Future

In the future as a social worker involved in rehabilitation, I will need to take a holistic approach to fully understanding the client’s current position and experience of oppression. Only then can I work in collaboration with the client to identify where the inequality they are experiencing stems from and what supports are available to them in order to meet the needs and goals identified.”

“In my future role I will have to work with the individual in order to help them deconstruct the view that disability makes you inferior or incapable. In addressing these disabling barriers by rebuilding their self-confidence, helping them access knowledge and building up their capabilities I can hopefully empower clients.”

Emily concludes: “As a social worker in this arena I will have to ensure I maintain a degree of distance when implementing the strategies agreed upon by the client, providing information and guidance and not completing tasks that the client is capable of doing themselves.”

social work

No-one stated it better.  Well done Emily – you are a worthy recipient of this inaugural award in Social Work.

social work

Happy World Social Work Day  – 19th March 2019

The World Social Work Day theme for 2019 is promoting the importance of human relationships.

Further reading : Everyday Caring 

Also see : Royal Rehab 

What is normal ?

The accident, that rendered Emily quadriplegic, changed our lives forever but her paralysis hasn’t had an impact on her fun personality, drive and ambition or life goals. When catastrophe occurs we commonly seek to return to our normal. Striving for normality implies that only normalcy delivers a good life which isn’t the case. Being differently-abled  in society is normal which leads me to consider what is normal ?

What is normal ?


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Everyday Caring Update

Technology has advanced since Emily’s accident in 2012 with social media sites growing so popular that it is difficult to keep up with all the Instagram, Facebook and Twitter ‘feeds’.  While advocating for resources online I now have to be mindful in regard to the volume and validity of information. Here’s my Everyday Caring update…..

Everyday Caring Update

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