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.
Words: Leanne Tolra