Adrian 00:00:03 Hello and welcome to Tune in to care, a podcast that takes us on caring journeys of five different people who care for a loved one. People who didn't know they are an unpaid carer, and who have only found out later that there is support out there for them. Free and easily accessible. Tune in to care is produced on Aboriginal land across Australia. We acknowledge the traditional owners as the custodians of this land. Tune in to care is brought to you by Wellways Carer Gateway. Carer Gateway is an Australian government initiative providing free services and support for carers. And my name is Adrian Plitzco.

Adrian 00:00:56 We are on a journey with carers Lena, Mary, George, Maya, and Luna. In previous episodes, they have shared with us some insights into their personal lives, into the challenges they face while caring for their loved one. We heard that being a carer is not a choice. Anyone can become a carer overnight. It is a lonely role full of challenges, uncertainty, doubts, fear, and for some even shame. We have learned that it is important to realise, hey, I'm a carer, because it opens up a whole range of supports and services that are available tailored to carers. Connecting with others outside of your family or circle of friends is also important. Meeting fellow carers can make a big difference as they all too often know almost exactly what you are going through. And at the end of this episode, we will hear again from Georgie Sawyer who does exactly that, bring carer together in a safe and uplifting space.

Georgie 00:02:00 To be honest, we're coming in as strangers and the one common thread that is connecting us is that we are carers. But first we wanna look at connecting to ourselves.

Adrian 00:02:12 More from Georgie in a few minutes. However, how do you actually find out what support is out there and what works for you? For some of our carers, it was good old fashioned word of mouth.

Mary 00:02:25 When I find out through a friend actually, she said, why don't you ring this number. She gave me, 'cause she's also carer and she gave me a number and I rang up.

Maya 00:02:36 Well my mum was going and my mum asks me sometimes just to go, so I just go with her. But it was like basic, it was really that. And then the next time we went ice skating for a different carer group, not this one, but I've been to many groups of carers.

Adrian 00:02:55 To first realise, hey, I'm a carer. And to then pick up the phone are two big steps on the caring journey. Mary, George and Luna remember quite well what their first steps were and how they have reached out for help. And with Lena, who cares for her father. It all started with his aged care assessment, ACAT.

Lena 00:03:15 I rang up because the ACAT, the lady from ACAT gave me the number from My Aged Care to, because my father's over 65. So his condition was pretty bad that it was like next level. So ACAT isn't the company that deals with that. So they were the one to told me to call Carerr Gateway. So I gave Care Gateway a call and they said they'll call me back or something. And then interviewed me and asked me all these questions and asked how they can help me.

Mary 00:03:48 We went through friend again, we went to meeting with Wellways and I was so excited, so happy that day. I was like, it's relief for me, you know, something new. And they said they help, they helped the carer. I was like, like you winning lottery. I went to, the first meeting was in Springwood, I remember two, three years, something like that. A lady come from Brisbane or Queensland and she, I spoke to her and she gave me her card. She said, this is the card for you. I didn't wanna give to everyone. She gave me her card and yeah, I told her my story quick, you know, 'cause we in meeting and we was on lunch break and I, I relaxed actually, I don't know, just, I felt happy inside there's the people I need.

George 00:04:48 It was mainly through my wife going on the internet to, to find out, you know, where we could get help and to get help with OTs and that sort of thing. So my wife done all the work on that. So it, it worked out very, very well. Really for us. It, it was peace of mind. Peace of mind at times.

Luna 00:05:06 I was actually in a crisis when I found out about the support that was available, particularly Carer Gateway, I was talking to the crisis response team at the hospital because they said if there's ever a situation where it's, you know, really overwhelming and there's a lot of really intense behaviours happening that I should call them and see what they can offer me. And they, they told me about Carer Gateway and it was the first time I'd ever really heard of it. And I, I had a look on the website and I was just kind, I was just kind like clutching at straws, you know, I was just reaching out in every which direction, trying to find something that was gonna help me get through because it was a really, really hard time.

Adrian 00:05:58 After the first step was taken, the first call made, Lena had an experience with the service. Wellways Carer Gateway provides that she remembers until this day

Lena 00:06:08 They were so happy for me. They were really, really happy for me. They're like, it's about time that you do something for yourself. Well they always said, I'm here for you Lena, whatever you need, let us know. So I know they're there, but I didn't think was, I would never ask 'cause I dunno how they would help, but they were there, you know, emotionally for me at least.

Adrian 00:06:30 Luna's first emotion after reaching out to Wellways Carer Gateway was one of relief.

Luna 00:06:36 So they had like a web form that you could fill out to request support, which I found really, it was really comforting and I found it really accessible 'cause I was in that crisis point. I'd been talking to people and talking to people and talking to people. I was all talked out. So I wanted to just be able to reach out but I didn't wanna have to speak. So having that web form available made it really, really easy for me to just put all my thoughts down. It gives you options of what kind of support you think you might need and you put in all your information and then they end up calling you, which I find is a lot less confronting and a lot less anxiety inducing. I was a little bit reserved 'cause when you're a carer you get kind of used to doors being closed in your face, people putting you in the too hard basket and stuff like that. And I was hoping, cautiously hoping that this service was gonna be different and that they were gonna be able to actually provide me with some real proper support. And so after I put in the web form, it was just that kind of anxious wait, waiting for them to contact me and trying to kind of hold down the fort. I was really, really, really hoping that it would, it would come through and they would be able to offer me something, something that would help and kind of ease, ease my burden, I guess, emotionally speaking.

Adrian 00:08:14 Lena speaks for many when she says that the first contact needs to be simple and work around their needs, whether it is online or over the phone, but how exactly did Wellways Carer Gateway help? What supports worked for her?

Lena 00:08:28 When I called Carer Gateway, I was, I got help by seeing a counsellor here and by seeing a counsellor, they helped me. They taught me how to speak up to my dad and not feel guilty. Pretty much. They taught me not to feel guilty by standing up against my father. Like, it's okay to say no to my dad and that I need a break. That was so hard. It took me a while to say no to my dad. Every time he called, he needed something, 'cause I just felt guilty. I just, I always said to my friends, I, I live my life feeling guilty all the time. Like no matter what I do, it's never good enough. That's how my father made me feel. Unintentionally though, they offered many things, which like if I needed financial support or help with the groceries and I said no, I was okay there and then I actually didn't know what Carer Gateway was all about to be honest. And we were trying to figure out what they can do to help me and then they offered, how about counselling? And I thought, you know what, that would be really good. And they also sent, he was a carer to my dad once a week to help take him grocery shopping for two hours. That was a huge help for me 'cause I'm so busy with my, my kids and everything and work. When they sent the carer to my dad, I asked if they can have someone that spoke Mandarin and I was quite surprised that they had someone that can speak his language and that made my dad feel a lot more comfortable. My dad also, because of his condition, he speaks with a slur, so it's quite hard to understand him. So he felt more comfortable speaking Chinese than English.

Adrian 00:10:11 Support for Lena was not only the counselling she received to help her deal with the situation better, but her father also got support by someone speaking his language. A huge relief for Lena. Getting support in your language also made a big difference for Mary who grew up in Lebanon. She says even just a couple of hours of distraction a week, make all the difference.

Mary 00:10:35 Carer Gateway, you know, they arrange like respite and I used to love it because you go for break, you know, from the caring role, you know, you have a break, you forget about everything. And we go like two, three days, two and a half days. And that, that, that's amazing. Makes big difference. And they talk about relaxation and tell us lots of things I've never learned before. You gotta look after number one. And I was thinking number one, my family, no, they said you number one so you can look after everyone and especially your son. I learn a lot from, Wellways it is beautiful.

Adrian 00:11:22 George attends meetings called peer support where people in a similar situation to you share their stories. An open and safe forum that George finds very helpful.

George 00:11:34 So we got involved with the carers and we, they had meetings and, and which is, which is a big help because you get what they're doing and some of them are looking after their dads and mums and stuff and others looking after their children was a big aspect of it right over that from all age, which was, which was good. And, and we, we could hear things which helped them, which, oh yeah, that may help us as you know, if we could try this. So, which worked out really, really well. And it's, it's a big help. It is a big help. So finally, I can have a bit of peace of mind and, and someone can listen. So, so it was good. Yeah, no, it's, it is been a big help. It's, it's something which we could have, could have had a long time ago.

Adrian 00:12:21 George enjoys hearing from others and sharing his own story. Young carer Maya, on the other hand, has learned that you don't have to be a lover of the arts to find art therapy beneficial.

Maya 00:12:34 I started doing counselling and, well, yeah, I told her about my life and things like that. We were doing art about our feelings. Basically, I was saying mental health matters about all that stuff in specific previews I like, I hate art, but when it comes to doing feelings and stuff like that, I can just join in. But honestly, art isn't my thing.

Adrian 00:13:09 Luna also takes part in meetings with other carers. Luna receives advice on how to organise daily life and has access to psychological counselling. It is the combination of the three services that enable Luna to take control.

Luna 00:13:24 So through Carer Gateway, I've connected with the in-person peer support groups. So that's the, basically the facilitator, the person who works for Carer Gateway is themself a carer and they organise meetings for participants of Carer Gateway, so other carers and in various caring roles with all different kinds of care recipients. And you have these meetings once a week where you, you get to feel seen other than the peer support groups, I also took part in their coaching program, which helps with strategizing about making goals and putting processes in place to make sure that you can reach your goals and your goals are actually reasonable and attainable. And I also got a referral to a psychologist through Carer Gateway, and that has been absolutely fantastic. The person they put me in contact with is awesome. It's, I've, I've been in therapy on and off since I was 14, so I've, I know how it works and I know, you know, all the stuff they say and the person they put me in contact with has got a really different approach to what I'm used to and it's, it's working really well for me. So through those three different services, I've actually been able to get some semblance of a feeling of control over my own life. I don't feel like I am at the whims of all these therapists and my kids' school and all that kind of stuff all the time. I, I feel like I can tackle things a lot easier. I I can strategize and make a plan and, you know, I've learned more about how I operate so I can, I can actually put those plans in place, which has been really fantastic.

Adrian 00:15:37 It is the time again to hand the microphone over to Georgie Sawyer. She's a peer facilitator at Wellways Carer Gateway and Luna just described Georgie's role quite well. She is a carer herself who facilitates meetings for carers to get together. Welcome back, Georgie.

Georgie 00:15:55 Hi, how are you doing? Lovely to see you Adrian. Lovely to talk to you too, caring community.

Adrian 00:16:00 All of our carers seemingly had a great first experience with Wellways Carer Gateway once they ask for help. They all have in common that they are caring for a loved one, but they all come from different walks of life. Do you and your team members take that into consideration? Or, or do you have a certain, let's say one size fits all service that you provide?

Georgie 00:16:24 At Carer Gateway we as peers, I know in the IPPS group, I know in a lot of our people who are in Carer Gateway have a, a lived experience with being a carer. So we, we have that empathy and we hold that space where we do understand and cherish and value and respect the fact that everyone has a unique experience. And the moment that you call up our 1800 number, it's, that's the service that we pride ourselves on and that we continue to extend ourselves with meeting the need of every individual. Because as, as, as every individual's fingerprint is unique to them, so is their journey, their caring journey is as unique to them. And to be able to provide a pathway of support and to help empower a carer to better their personal situation, we have to treat it as such.

Adrian 00:17:22 What does it look like when a carer comes to a very first meeting? What actually is happening and are they any rules? How do you keep people safe?

Georgie 00:17:32 I can give you a beautiful, a beautiful example of how we facilitate our groups, is we treat this space as a very sacred space. It's, we welcome people in, we start off with an icebreaker by welcoming our carers to have a cup of cup of coffee, a nice slice of cake, we, which Carer Gateway provide, because that's part of supporting the bond, the communal bond of the group. We sometimes play a few games whether it be a bit of trivia or something fun that can break the ice because we all know we are coming in as, as in as individuals, but as, as really to be honest, we're coming in as strangers. And the one common thread that is connecting us is that we are carers, but first we wanna look at connecting to ourselves. So we do an acknowledgement of country, which is so important to us here at Wellways. And then we follow up with an acknowledgement to the carer who's actually shown up for themselves. They've made the time to say, hey, I'm worthy of this time and space and I'm in need of this for whatever way it is for them. So we acknowledge that that human being has come to connect for self, and then we start to explore the values and the underlying, what I like to call the group culture that we all get to collaborate and create as a group. It's this beautiful culture that's based on personal expectations and needs on boundaries, on our values and all these beautiful words that come up for people. We collate into a one amazing document that is called the group's culture. And we use this culture as like an evolving tool that helps guide every session of our group. So it means that everyone is heard, everyone is valued. A common one is confidentiality. We always say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas so that people know that when they are in a sharing space that you know, we are keeping that sacred, that we're not going outside the bounds of the grounds of of, of the circle. We also do things like, we talk about the common core topics that we talk about, but we also create a safe space for the carers to design the group by them, for them. And that can look like for some carers they wanna get more information on it could be the NDIS or it could be My Aged care, or it could be for some carers that they're just feeling so, so tired and so stressed that they wanna learn a few added self-care rituals or tools to put in their mental health toolbox. So we might get in some, some outside specialists, whether that be a yoga instructor or it could be a sound therapist that comes in. So yeah, it's a space where we, we welcome people at first to just connect to self, but we also set the boundaries of safe storytelling as well, so that we ensure that, you know, we we're speaking our truth and sharing our story of our caring journey in a safe, purposeful, and meaningful way. So I guess, yeah, the first session is really just a welcoming, warm, open space where the facilitator will support the connections from the ground up. It's all part of scaffolding so that, that they're continued connections, are safe, healthy, and strong.

Adrian 00:21:26 Talking of self-care. I can imagine that it is not that easy to come forward and demand, hey, I need something myself, Mary, as an example, she said that in her first meeting, she was being told that you must look after number one. And she was convinced that her son is number one and was surprised to hear that she herself is actually number one and needs to address her very own needs first above everybody else's. And when listening to the other carers, it seems to be a common thread. Put the one you care for first and yourself last. And from your experience, Georgie is that common among carers.

Georgie 00:22:06 You're spot on Adrian. This is a common topic that carers will bring up to the surface to have a chat about. It's, we, we use some curious questioning like how did we, how did we develop this way of thinking where on a totem pole of importance, your loved one is at the top and somehow everything in your day, in a 24-hour day will come in between the top being your loved one and the bottom being yourself. And no matter what it is you have, you seem to just always be, oh, that's okay, I'll get that done. And then your priority goes to the bottom and the same thing happens day in, day out. We do see that. I know I can definitely put my hand up and say I have lived that truth for many, many years. But one amazing, a few amazing carers have brought to my awareness the beautiful analogy of how we need in life to be able to put the oxygen mask. So when you're in a plane and you're in, you're flying in a plane. And the analogy is, is that if the plane's going down or there's some stress happening or there's challenging moments, you are told, you are instructed to put your own mask on first before you can put it on your child or your loved one. So it's that analogy that I've actually heard and witnessed carers in our support groups who have said it was hard for me to do that, but I realised I'm actually useless to anyone until I'm okay. I need to put my oxygen mask on first with my own self-care rituals, making sure I go to my doctor's appointments, making sure I go see my counsellor, making sure I have half an hour or 15 minutes to go outside and have a cuppa before I come back inside and start again. It's these, these moments of self-awareness where carers are reflecting in group and they're noticing that that commonality and they're looking at life, I guess they're challenging each other to utilise different practices that are actually soul enriching, that are going to support their own self-care, which will maintain their ability to actually continue caring for the people that we love.

Adrian 00:24:36 To take the first step and ask for help does change your life as a carer and to what extent we will hear in the next episode. But here is a little example what it meant to Luna.

Luna 00:24:48 I have a lot more hope now than what I did before and that's, that's a really big deal for me 'cause hope is not something that's easy to come by for me. So it's, it's been really fantastic. I don't feel so alone anymore.

Adrian 00:25:06 Hear more uplifting stories in our upcoming episode of Tune in to care, a podcast supported by Carer Gateway. But in the meantime.

Georgie 00:25:15 If you can't wait to find out more about receiving free support as a carer for yourself or for a friend, why not give my colleagues at Carer Gateway a call? Call Australia wide. Simply dial 1800 422 737.

Adrian 00:25:32 Make sure you're not missing out on all the other amazing stories. Be part of this journey, so make sure you Tune in to care and subscribe. Thank you Georgie Sawyer, and thank you for listening. I am Adrian Plitzco. Goodbye. Until next time.

Note: Transcripts are generated automatically by AI and corrected manually.