Every year throughout October, National Carers Week aims to recognise family members, friends and support professionals who provide care to people who need additional support to live independent lives.
Carers or extra support are often required for people living with disability, managing chronic and ongoing health conditions, recovering from major injuries, suffering from a terminal illness or frail condition, along with dealing with mental health and substance use issues.
Whilst the interdisciplinary teams across Mater at Home who provide healthcare, resources and additional support to people in their own homes have long been considered carers, this year has seen an increase in the number of people they are supporting across the community.
To ensure people could continue to receive care, throughout the peak of COVID-19 Mater at Home transitioned many traditionally in-patient services to out-patient services, as well as expanded their services to meet an increase in referrals across haematology, respiratory, inflammatory bowel diseases, and cancer care services.
Making up a large part of the Mater at Home workforce, occupational therapists play an integral role in enabling people to live well in their own home, receive localised healthcare in the comfort of their home, rehabilitate from hospital with ongoing support, and manage underlying chronic conditions or disabilities.
Rachael McDonough is part of the team and said no two days are the same in these roles, sharing what a day is like caring for clients that range from 18 right up to 107 years of age.
“On an average day, my first appointment might be a young person with a significant disability looking at ways to live more independently and move out of their family home,” she explained.
“For someone like this, I would work with them to understand their specific goals and support them in finding appropriate accommodation with the right environmental support, and help them acquire the life skills they might need like community access, managing finances and budgeting, grocery shopping and social skills.”
“My second appointment for the day might be something completely different like visiting a patient referred by a hospital after recently presenting to emergency department due to having a fall in their home.”
“In visiting someone like this, our teams would be checking to see if they have any other health issues that may be affecting their quality of life, and work with them to investigate if there are things in their home that may have affected their likelihood to fall.
“We might see if we could recommend changes to their home environment such as installing a grab rail or recommending equipment like a shower chair to help mitigate this happening again.”
“My third visit for the day might be visiting a client with a chronic disease who is ready to trial a full-lift hoist, intended to help them have more mobility in their home.”
“This would usually be a joint visit with an equipment supplier and we would often be working closely with the client’s family members as they may be a primary carer.”
“A visit like this one would include educating the primary carer and family members on the use of this hoist to make transfers, showering and dressing easier to manage.”
When asked about what it means to be a carer to such a range of people, Rachael explained that working together with the client and building a good relationship with them is key to bringing them success.
“We don’t go into someone’s home and tell them what they need for their condition or health, rather we take the time to hear what their specific goals are and investigate what tailored support we can provide to them to ensure they can meet these goals,” Rachael said.