Caring for a person with a long-term medical condition can put a strain on carers and their relationships. George has been caring for his wife Mary since she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 37 years ago, but Brotherhood Community Care and our Social Inclusion Program are enabling him to remain connected to the community, while Mary is well cared for.
These programs reflect the Brotherhood’s emphasis on social and community participation in contributing to wellbeing and a life of dignity and choice.
George has been primary carer for his wife as her illness has gradually progressed. ‘She’s now at the stage where she’s in a motorised wheelchair. She can’t stand; she can’t lift things up so she has to be fed’, George explains. ‘Being primary carer puts quite a strain on me.’
The role of primary carer often means exclusively looking after someone, to the detriment of work or social contact. Brotherhood Community Care arranges and monitors regular respite care for Mary, domestic help, a fortnightly gardener and personal care. The Brotherhood also pays for a personal alarm service and arranged for a car hoist so that George and Mary can get out and about.
While Mary is in respite care, George uses the time to ‘catch up on the jobs at home’ or teach his voluntary class in computing that’s part of the Social Inclusion Program. George first undertook a film-making course with this program and was then asked to teach a course of his own for fellow carers.
He thought that a course on using the Internet would suit many carers: ‘Most have a computer at home but are hesitant about going on to the Internet – they hear about viruses and scams and all that.’
Now George teaches twice a week, confident in the knowledge that Mary will be in respite care. ‘It works both ways’, George chuckles, ‘but I also feel good about volunteering the time.’