Caring for a loved one?

Caring for a loved one, I am. See my story here – https://www.carergateway.gov.au/rachels-story

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 www.UnitedWayNNJ.org/CaregiverTools. 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?
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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

https://www.women.nsw.gov.au/nsw-womens-week/inspirational-women-online-showcase

My video is in – participation and empowerment.

The videos can also be viewed on our Youtube Channel Inspirational Women playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1jKge1cJ7AyqRRN_sv74GpEJ-f0DyUCl

Further Reading – Supporting Carers

Read – Carers – Self Care

Suddenly an Everyday Carer – buy the book

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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: http://www.carersandemployers.org.au/

For organisations wanting more information about the initiative please email: info@carersandemployers.org.au

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.

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Independence after SCI.

A tradesman reminded me how tedious it is being stuck indoors. It reinforced Emily’s independence after SCI as she left the house to catch a wheelchair accessible bus (M30) to Sydney University leaving me behind.

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Starting the revolution with honesty and ideas at CarersNSW Conference #carersnswconf

I don’t know any celebrities but if I had the opportunity I’d hang out with Chris Bath. Chris facilitated the plenary discussion at the CarersNSW Conference where I was invited as a carer representative. A natural gem, who better than Chris to aid the panelists deliver their stories and ideas to an audience of professionals, service providers and the extended care community.

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Blog featured in Carers NSW newsletter

I opened the April / May edition of my Carers NSW newsletter and read my own story! I have reproduced the featured article for carers who are not yet members receiving the newsletter or who live outside NSW, Australia.

A Carer Story…

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SCIA Expo Spectacular….. want to know more……

It took Emily and I an hour to cross the Expo threshold because we couldn’t stop talking! It was a lovely opportunity to catch up with our friends at SCIA and refresh ourselves with their news, while becoming chummy with Charlie, a sleek black labrador service dog.

SCIA gathered service and product providers, support organisations and a range of equipment together into The Australian Technology Park, Sydney. Parking was free and we accessed the venue, Bay 8, with ease. There was ample space inside for this gathering of exhibitors, powerchairs, dogs, children, cafe and carers.

Emily had been asked to participate in the SCIA Exercise Rehabilitation Program demonstration at 11.45 and 2.30pm so we relaxed into our day at the venue. The SCIA Walk On Program “is an individually designed, intensive, activity based program that assists a person with spinal cord injury to improve and maximize their functional ability and lead a more independent life. Exercises are performed out of the wheelchair one on one with a qualified Exercise Physiotherapist or physiotherapist”  

photo 2 (44)

Emily thoroughly enjoys her sessions at Walk On, she gains from the positive energy, boosting her confidence and moral as well as benefiting from the practical therapy. It is also an opportunity to structure therapy ideas and re-energize rehabilitation goals.

We met so many friends we knew from Royal North Shore Hospital, Royal Rehab  and other SCI organisations, networks and workshops, my voice grew horse! No one could escape the natural charisma of Duncan Wallace, the Executive Director at Spinal Cure Australia. Duncan is energetic, enthusiastic and engaging, he spoke to us with insight about his vision for spinal cure in Australia, he vocalized about the power of the group and the need to educate politicians, the need to speak as one so our voice is heard. See here. Like their Facebook page to follow their news.

My next stop was to meet the staff at IDEAS, Information on Disability and Education Awareness Services. Wow is the descriptive that comes to mind, one phone call to access assistance. Their newsletter is packed with information and with information comes choice,  and choice matters! IDEAS NSW;  “is a free telephone information service for people with disability, their family, carers and other supporters” – call 1800 029 904. Ask them questions,  IDEAS give you the answers and you make the decisions.

I went on to meet Trudy Rice who helps arrange holidays for the disabled at Time Fly’s Travel. All services that expand the opportunities offered to people with disabilities must be embraced. I have St Petersburg and The Great Wall of China on my bucket list with Emily! I took away Cruising from Australia, Thailand and Malaysia travel brochures to read over coffee.

Carers NSW was also on my to visit list when I saw the Expo floor plan, I was  delighted to introduce myself and received a warm welcome. I am becoming more aware of the wealth of newsletters available but actually most organisations are Online, as well as on Facebook or Twitter. The internet and social media is an interface that works well with isolated carers in rural homesteads or if carers are housebound with their role. The internet can be accessed at your convenience and  information is updated so the latest news is at your fingertips i.e here!

Carers NSW; “is the voice of all carers in NSW. The vision is for family members and friends who provide care across the state to enjoy improved health, well-being and recognition by governments and communities.”  See more here.

Bay 8 was filled with exhibitors, service providers and support organisations.. Emily and I found ourselves talking to company directors about products that may not be appropriate for her immediately but we are aware of them and their development so in future we can access these resources. Having the opportunity to see and discuss the available services and products is empowering. It broadens our horizon, expands our choices and will enhance Emily’s independence.

As a carer I am  interested in products and SCI services because anything that promotes Emily’s independence – reduces my role, I enthusiastically embrace positive change, SCI service development and advocacy (individual and within organisations) because as a carer I want to be made redundant. My greatest hope is that SCI is cured, that improvements in SCI care offer people hope, that improvements in technology offer freedom from a life time of wheelchair use. I welcome SCIA Walk On Program as it improves functionality, develops strength, physical stamina and skills that increase Emily’s involvement in her everyday life, her studies, volunteer work, her sport.

Within the extremes of SCI  there are many differences but we are one community. We have to come together to empower ourselves with one voice and we have to work together to facilitate positive, practical change in an aware and inclusive society. The SCIA Expo, in my opinion, was a rare opportunity to connect to numerous SCI service and product providers, SCI and Carer support organisations, to gain information that makes life easier, makes independence a reality.

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