• People just like you: Marlene and Greg – National Carers Week image

People just like you: Marlene and Greg – National Carers Week

This week is National Carers Week. Our goal this week is to help create a Canberra that cares for our carers. Too often, our caring community remains hidden, in the shadows. As carers, we strive to build a better life for those we care for, and it is the stories and struggles of those we care for, that often receive much needed attention.

This isn’t a bad thing, yet if we want to build a community that understands the lives of our carers, that recognises their worth; sees, hears and responds to the unique needs, we need to hear from carers themselves.

Carers like Marlene. Marlene is the full-time carer for her husband, Greg, who was diagnosed with Frontotemporal Degeneration Disease (FTD) in 2019. Prior to this FTD diagnosis, Greg had a Stage 4 melanoma cancer diagnosis; and had a robotic prostatectomy procedure following his prostate cancer diagnosis. In between his cancer treatments, he also contracted pneumonia in 2018 and again in 2020.

“As an unpaid carer, it is difficult to quantify the amount of mental stress I experience, as I deliver 24/7 care and support to Greg.  In addition to the constant physical work that an unpaid carer must perform, there is also a substantial change in social life,” Marlene told us, at Carers ACT.

Married for 35 years, Greg and Marlene are the apple of each other’s eye and constant companions and have spent a lifetime together, contributing to the local community and our economy as full-time workers.

Yet in 2021, Marlene was diagnosed with High Grade B-Cell Lymphoma (blood cancer commonly called Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma).  She underwent chemotherapy sessions and fortunately, is now in remission. Yet, throughout her chemotherapy treatment, Marlene depended on family and friends for support and assistance, like driving her to-from hospital, cooking, groceries and shopping as well as laundry and basic personal care.

This also impacted her ability to care for Greg.

That’s where an organisation like Carers ACT can step in.

“Carers ACT is my constant support and provides invaluable assistance through retreats and respites. Whenever I need to attend to my medical appointments, I can always rely on Carers ACT to look after Greg. At the respite cottage, Carers ACT provides me with the peace of mind knowing that Greg will be cared for by professional, caring and friendly staff,” Marlene said.

“Carers ACT is my extended family. Through retreats, I also have the opportunity to meet other carers where we can learn from each other’s caring journey. I enjoy the “caring break” when attending social activities organised by Carers ACT as time spent with co-carers provides me with emotional and practical support. Carers ACT staff are always there to listen and empathise; they understand my caring journey; and, helps me maintain my sense of identity outside my caring role.”

Everyone in the ACT can help too. By taking the time to learn and understand about carers and the unpaid work they do, we can all begin to recognise both their worth and their value to our society.

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