Carers take care of each other

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Cardinia shire carers who look after family and friends with a mental illness will have the opportunity to network with a group of likeminded people at a new carer’s network.

The new Carer Hub would give carers of all ages in the Cardinia region the opportunity to take a break from their demanding roles and to socialise with other carers who can empathise with their situation.

Based on a successful model in Hampton Park, the Cardinia Carer Hub will be trialled from next Wednesday in Pakenham to determine the demand.

Pakenham mother of two Melanie Frazee, who cares for her husband, said she has found that there is a gap in services in Cardinia shire.

“There seems to be a bit of a black hole in Cardinia,” Ms Frazee said.

“I have to travel to Narre Warren or Dandenong to get the services he needs and that takes time and involves a lot of planning around traffic.

“A carer hub will keep me in contact with other carers and help me find contacts for local services.

“I have very little time for myself so finding that space and ‘me-time’ is very important.

“I feel almost like a single mum sometimes. You’re constantly trying to be a normal family and it’s isolating because not all of your friends understand what you’re going through.”

Another Pakenham resident expressed her frustration in adopting a full-time carer’s role for her son.

“You lose your sense of self, the 68-year-old said.

“You become a role.

“Services are temporary and it always seems that the services end just as the need becomes greater.

“As I’m getting older I’m worried that my ability to stay in a caring role is going to become more difficult.”

The meeting heard that a Cardinia shire youth survey conducted in 2015 found stress and anxiety to be the top two issues of concern for young people, suggesting there are families needing mental health support.

Social research also identified financial difficulties and mental health as the main local issues in the growth areas.

The carer hub will include education sessions, self-care workshops, meditation techniques, guidance with developing an emergency plan and one-on-one support with a peer worker.

The Hampton Park hub, a collaboration between the Uniting Church and UnitingCare LifeAssist, was established in 2014.

“The Hampton Park Carer Hub has grown steadily since its launch in 2014, particularly over the last 12 months,” LifeAssist’s Catherine Rihak said.

“While this provides a strong starting point, the new hub will focus on working with local carers to address their needs.

“Some carers at the hub have said that it’s the first time they’ve shared their experience of mental health which can be difficult to talk about, especially for people from different cultural backgrounds.”

Cardinia Carer Hub will meet between 10.30am and 2.30pm on Wednesday 13 July, 27 July, 10 August and 7 September at meeting room 4, Toomah Centre, Pakenham.

A free lunch will be served at noon.

Originally published at Pakenham Gazette.

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About Alana Mitchelson

Alana Mitchelson is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMitchelson.

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