Caring For Carers
Caring For Carers
Caring for a loved one with a disability, chronic illness or mental health issue can be a draining role. It can feel monotonous and all consuming, and in time the carer’s own health and wellbeing can suffer.
It was with this in mind that Lisa Marie came up with the idea for Carer Escapes, which gives carers the opportunity to get away on a two- day retreat to connect with others in the same circumstances, and to rejuvenate and prevent burnout.
“If you’re not in a good state of mind it’s going to affect those around you,” she says. “The people being cared for are very often in a vulnerable situation and very reliant on a carer, so it’s important that a carer develops a sense of awareness and emotional intelligence to sustain that caring role in a healthy way. I’ve worked with a lot of carers and found the longer they have been in the role the more challenged they are, and understandably so.”
Marie knows firsthand how difficult the job can be. Her five-year-old daughter, Mia, was born with bilateral choanal atresia – a neurological disorder and hearing impairment – and Marie has had to juggle tube feeding, surgeries, suction units, specialist appointments and sleep issues as her little girl worked hard to breathe through her tiny nasal airways.
Finding The Carer Community
“I didn’t even realise I was a carer,” she says. “It was only when my daughter was a couple of years old that I learned about carers. My level of knowledge about the community was really low, but I don’t think it was ignorance. It was lack of education.”
Marie, who has studied holistic counselling and meditation, organised the first getaway for eight women at Billabong Retreat at Maraylya, just outside Sydney, last July with funding from disability services and support organisation Your Northside.
“The key thing for our retreats is for carers to break away from their routine and be in an environment they feel safe, comfortable and relaxed,” she explains. “Being in nature is great for our mind, body and spirit, and for our energy levels.”
The mid-week retreats include meditation, yoga, sound baths, self-care workshops and group therapy sessions. “It’s therapeutic for carers to be able to share their experiences with others who can relate,” Marie says. “There’s a real sense of compassion that carers have for one another because they just get it. It’s also an opportunity to learn practical tools that they can use to support their wellbeing when they’re back home. We had a 65-year- old woman do yoga for the first time on our last retreat and she was really pleased with herself for trying something new.”
Many caregivers become so consumed with their role that it takes them 24 hours to relax. “They’re so used to being in a constant state of stress and tension,” Marie says.