Creating a Community That Cares for Our Carers

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Establishing an integrated community of care is essential if carers are to get the support they need. Here’s how one Melbourne social enterprise is trying to do just that.

The role of a carer is an essential component of the care system and a vital part of each individual’s journey. But it’s not an easy job, as anyone who has looked after a loved one will tell you. This is why it’s imperative to ensure that helpers themselves are helped, to minimise potential burn-out and encourage and empower their longer-term involvement.

And that is something Dr Danny Davis, managing director of LINK Community & Transport in Melbourne, is passionate about. Establishing an integrated community of care is essential if carers are to get the support they need. Here’s how one Melbourne social enterprise is trying to do just that. LINK is active in developing what Davis calls “an integrated community of care”. This approach recognises and seeks to support and amplify the enormous and vital roles played by a client’s family, friends, community members and neighbours.  

“We need to be aware of carers’ wellbeing, too,” Davis says. “We need to help them to give the care they want to give.” 

A community-based, not-for-profit social enterprise, LINK helps people stay safe, happy and healthy in their own homes, remaining connected to services and community. Its volunteer and staff teams provide home and garden help, maintenance, transport, social activities and outings across metropolitan Melbourne, growth corridors and select regional locations.  

According to Davis, what’s most needed is a more user-friendly support system, one that avoids creating unnecessary and unhelpful frustration, overwhelm and feelings of helplessness.

“Some parts of the system are so complicated that people give up,” he says. “It can be extremely difficult for them to learn what help even exists, let alone to navigate their way through the bureaucracy to get the help they’re entitled to. Many miss out on services they need.”

Davis wants to see a more effective, more streamlined, integrated community of care. Under his vision, LINK is determined to streamline the system to do its part to ease the lives of those in need.

“Working with carers, and helping carers to play an active role in supporting the wellbeing of their loved ones, makes for a more caring society and a stronger social safety net. It is vital that support structures help care for these caring helpers.”  

He believes countless clients, and their families and friends, are failed due to the complexity of the existing system. “It leads to ignorance of available resources, reduced uptake of the services that are available, and systemic service provision inefficiency,” he says. “Overall, it results in a poor collective response to what is a vast need, despite the huge investment of public resources and massive goodwill from all quarters. We can do better.”  

Through LINK, Davis is leading an approach to simplify the process. “Clients already have enough to deal with thanks to declining health and increasing age,” he says. “Clients, friends and family can be so negatively impacted by their experience of the system that it can compromise their ability to access help. 

“An important and often overlooked issue is the amount of pressure a family member or friend might feel from the weight of responsibility resting, seemingly entirely, on their shoulders. For example, a caring neighbour may put out/bring in someone’s bins for many months or even years. But what pressure might be felt if one day they become unable to continue the task, or their neighbour’s needs increase? Individual acts of care should be backed up by a more supportive system, reducing the feeling that the burden of care rests on their shoulders alone.”

Carers themselves need to live physically and emotionally healthy lives to sustain themselves and their activities. “If it ‘takes a village to raise a child’, then it’s also fair to say that it ‘takes an active community to care for the vulnerable’.” 

Take the case of John Davy, a much-valued LINK client whom staff have come to address as “Uncle John”. He says that one of the most precious things he and his wife, Preeni, have received in the way of help was given during COVID lockdowns when so many people felt scared, lonely and isolated.

On a weekly basis, John and his wife would get a call from the LINK team, checking in on how they were faring. He said that one small gesture “meant the world” to them. They knew they were not alone. 

But that wasn’t the only support the couple received. “One day, my lovely neighbour popped in, mentioning she was going to the supermarket and asked if I needed anything,” John recalls.

“I said, ‘Thank you, yes, but what I need, you can’t get!’ Apparently undeterred by John’s prognosis, the kind lady returned later in the day and in her arms, she held rolls of toilet paper. 

For Danny Davis, LINK’s nurturing and support of systems that will help create an integrated community of care can will make life far easier for clients and the people in their lives who truly represent the notion of caring communities.

If you’re a carer and need support, call LINK on 1300 546 528 or contact support@lct.org.au. Learn more about LINK at lct.org.au

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