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A brighter day

Flourish 08 May 2019

A Care Worker’s visit can be the highlight of the week for many socially isolated customers

older man drinking tea
Australian Unity Home Care Workers like Michelle Roberts help ease customers’ social isolation with regular visits.

Australian Unity Care Worker Michelle Roberts considers it a privilege to help care for someone and be welcomed into their home. 

“I have customers who rarely, or never, leave their homes so we are their link to the outside world. Sometimes we are the only people they see all week, and it really brightens their day to have someone to talk to,” she says.  

“Also, it gives them and their families some peace of mind to know that we will be calling in regularly to check that they are OK.”

Michelle began as a Care Worker in 2009 and lives and works in the Mudgee region in New South Wales. “I enjoy seeing the happy, smiley faces of my customers when I walk through the door, especially the ones I have known for 10 years,” she says. 

Michelle is one of Australian Unity’s team of more than 4000 Home Care Workers who regularly visit the organisation’s 40,000 Home Care Customers across New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Their work helps to ease the social isolation and loneliness faced by many of their elderly customers and those living with disability. 

One in four Australians is lonely and almost one third of the population doesn’t feel part of a group of friends, according to The Australian Loneliness Report, released by the Australian Psychological Society and Swinburne Institute of Technology in November 2018.
Social isolation is a growing policy challenge for governments around the world. In May 2018, the Australian Government announced a $46.1 million initiative to combat loneliness.

Many of Australian Unity’s customers experience social isolation: their families might have moved away, they may have suffered the loss of a partner or decreased health or mobility, or may find themselves in a new community. 
Home Care Workers can provide a practical solution to the problem through uniquely tailored social services that can be funded with a Home Care Package. This might include a lunch visit, a trip to the movies, encouragement to pursue a new hobby or a scenic drive. 

“We offer such a wide range of services. We can be doing personal care, domestic assistance, shopping, either for the customer or with the customer, and we offer dementia respite,” Michelle says.

“We can take our customers to appointments, or just out to lunch if they wish. For someone who doesn’t drive or get out much, this is such a great thing to do, especially if we can meet up with their friends. It brightens their whole week.”

Michelle says it is an honour to make a difference in someone’s life and enable them to stay in their own home rather than go into care.

“Sometimes when we first meet a new customer, they can be very shy and quiet, but it doesn’t take long for them to look forward to seeing us and having a cuppa and a chat and a laugh,” she says. 


Tamworth: Resilience Project 

Australian Unity has joined forces with its community partner The Resilience Project to help tackle drought-related stress and anxiety at the local level in Tamworth.

A community session held in Tamworth in November last year was part of a joint initiative to inspire attendees to be proactive and take care of their mental health.

Benson Saulo, Head of Partnerships — Investments Wealth & Capital Markets at Australian Unity, says farmers in regional and remote NSW, including large regional centres such as Tamworth, have been severely impacted by drought, which also affects their mental health.
Benson says more than 60 people attended the session, which raised $300 for the Australian Red Cross Drought Relief Campaign. Australian Unity contributed $5000. 

“Tamworth already has a strong social fabric, and a heightened awareness of the impacts of the drought on families and businesses,” Benson says. The event reinforced the power that comes from a community that looks out for people who are doing it tough and encourages them to seek help.

“The Resilience Project was a great fit for the community. Their approach was to acknowledge that things are tough and to encourage the important conversation about how people can support each other.”

Words Leanne Tolra
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