Supporting Wimmera's carers during the pandemic

Service provider talking to carer

Published Jul 10 2020

Article first appeared in the Wimmera Mail-Times

Ask carers what their needs are.

That's the advice from Gert Vrij, Ballarat Health Services Carer Gateway team leader, to people who want to support Wimmera residents caring for a physically or mentally ill, elderly or disabled family member or friend.

Ballarat Health Services is partnering with seven organisations (led by Merri Health) to roll out a federal government funded free service model, to help carers get the support they need.

Ms Vrij said the model, called Carer Gateway, started in April.

"With the pandemic, you will see carers are being selfless, thinking about their loved ones by not putting them at risk," she said.

"That will mean they're not visiting other people in the community. Carers will have to look after their emotional wellbeing, but that's harder to do because they can't access groups and activities, or invite people in houses.

"(If people want to help) they can do carers' shopping for them, but I think the most important thing is to be there to listen.

"It's also important to ask the carer what their needs are, and then try to link them in with services they think will be useful.

"In areas like western Victoria there might be a higher demand for respite care, because carers are living further apart from each other, and have to pay more for people to visit them."

Ms Vrij said 63 carers were registered with Carer Gateway in the Horsham area.

"We would like to build the resilience of carers and give them tools to look after themselves, so there are online modules you can access for free if you look up carer gateway," she said.

"There is also free phone counselling, peer support and a community forum, and online skill courses.

"Once you register you can also access in-person counselling, in-person peer support, emergency respite, residential and in-home respite care."

She said the group to provide more flexible services during the COVID-19 pandemic.