A place to be heard and understood

“It’s not like a complaints room where you can sit down and whine and moan – it’s just so that we can have a chat about how things are going. I think when you talk about things, it helps to relieve you of that stress and anxiety. You know you are being heard and not judged,” explains Colleen Magor.

72-year-old Colleen is an unpaid carer who looks after her elderly and unwell husband in Eastwood, a suburb of Adelaide, and she is talking about the Carer Peer Support group she attends.

Colleen’s husband Brian is 81 and lives with chronic pain from arthritis. “He’s had two hip replacements. He’s quite full of arthritis through his back, knees, ankles. He’s in a lot of pain but won’t take any medication because he says it makes him feel sick,” she says.

Colleen does everything for Brian. She helps him get dressed, makes the meals and does all the cleaning and all the daily living acticvities. She has been his full-time carer for more than 10 years. Colleen says it does get wearing at times and she doesn’t get much time to herself.

Colleen briefly joined an art group around the corner from her house, and that’s where she found a pamphlet for Carer Gateway and a Carer Peer Support group in her area.

The Federal Government’s Carer Gateway provides support services for unpaid carers including in person and online peer support.

“I went along and found that it was quite helpful,” says Colleen. “Sometimes when you go to these groups you see other people and what they’re going through, and it puts your life into perspective. You don’t sit around thinking woe is me, it’s more of a case of saying my life isn’t too bad and I can cope.”

One of the biggest issues for Colleen was the fact Brian wouldn’t shower regularly. It was her Carer Peer Support group that allowed her to make peace with this.

“I have learnt that is OK for him not to have a shower from the group. I just had to learn to step back and say it is OK if he doesn’t have a shower, the world won’t end,” she says.

Colleen had a stroke in March this year, and while she is slowly getting better, she is still using a walking stick to get around. The stroke has made her realise she needs more help, for both of them. “I got very stressed as I didn’t know what would happen if something happened to me. Who would look after Brian? And what do you do when you have two of you that aren’t too well?” she asks.

Since then, she has managed to get Meals on Wheels delivered three times a week. Brian now goes to a Men’s Shed every Monday which gives her a few hours to herself. “I’m trying at the moment to get myself involved in some yoga classes because every day is pretty much Brian day, and a break would be good.”

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