Celebrate our dedicated carers, National Carers Week (October 10–16)

Christina Johns, client from VMCH Carer Support Program

Where would Australia be without the 2.65 million Australians who provide care and support to family members and friends?

Carers themselves often require encouragement and support. It’s time to recognise and celebrate their contribution.

There are some inspiring organisations doing some great work in this space. Catholic Social Services Victoria member Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMHC) provides a Carer Support program that delivers a wide range of support services, so carers can take a break and enjoy some time for themselves.

Sonya Smart, VMCH CEO said while normally this happens through face-to-face events and activities, the last two years have meant pivoting to an online format.

“We have been hosting watercolour art classes, wardrobe organisation tips and tricks, along with educational resources such as NDIS Q&A sessions – all online.

This has been a huge challenge, but still a very successful way of keeping our carers connected. Our Carer Support team does an exceptional job, especially in such difficult times, when face-to-face contact is so important for those who need a break from their incredibly busy lives.

Sonya Smart

Christina Johns (pictured above), who has been a carer for over 30 years, is supported by the VMCH Carer Support program. As a mum and carer to her son Ashley, 42, Christina says that the program has been a great support to her over the years.

Christina and Ashley live in the Dandenong Ranges, which has been a beautiful part of the world for them to be at home during lockdown. Ashley lives in a self-contained unit on the property, and helps Christina out with her new business as a life coach. Together, they run a daily art class for kids in Melbourne’s lockdown, with Ashley leading the session.

“Ashley loves not having to go out, he has social anxiety, so he tends not to want to socialise, so lockdown suits us well. Throughout COVID he has been able to resolve his drug and alcohol issues, which is amazing, that through the worst time in the world for people with mental illness, he has been able achieve a lot.”

Christina has also met some lifelong friends, through VMCH’s Carer Support Program.

“We get together when we can and talk and talk and talk. We all bring some food and wine, and sit and play cards. It’s just a connection, a way to debrief with other carers. We all have different sorts of challenges, but what unites us is that we care for someone and we know how taxing it is on our lives. We can just be who we are, there’s no pretence, and pretending that everything is fine, when everything is actually falling apart. Sometimes we just cry with each other because it’s hard. It is that camaraderie outside of that organised setting, where like-minded people can get together and have fun, it is just precious.”

For more information about the Carer Support program, call them on 1300 698 624.

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