PLANNED RESPITE is important for the relationship between a carer and their loved one, by ensuring they each have time to invest in their own mental health.
This is especially so for carers of people with a mental illness, of which awareness has been raised throughout the past week during Mental Health Week (October 5 until October 11).
At Centacare Ballarat, a planned respite program provides a break for carers and the opportunity for new experiences for the care recipient.
Funded through the government, participants are taken on social outings and are offered in-home support, skills development and linkage to courses and advocacy.
Participants in the small group are able to attend social outings with planned respite worker Paul Hartwood, who organises a trip every fortnight from local outings to the movies, the Art Gallery of Ballarat or Ballarat Wildlife Park or bigger day trips to the Melbourne Aquarium.
Mr Hartwood works with 14 people living in Ballarat, Golden Plains, Hepburn, Moorabool and even in Pyrenees.
For Jenny Bearham, the program has provided her and her 17-year-old son and carer one-on-one support and regular time alone to focus on themselves.
When Ms Bearham moved to Ballarat last April she did not know anybody. Suffering from chronic pain and reliant on the WorkCover system, the former disability and family services worker recognised she needed assistance in coping with her anxiety and depression.
Ms Bearham contacted Centacare who has supported her with access to housing, respite support and emergency relief.
For her, the biggest benefit has been getting out of the house, being social and exploring the town.
"If I didn't access the service I would be sitting at home on my own because I can't get about easily," she said.
"My son is at school all day so I would be sitting at home with nobody to talk to except for my animals. It gets a little bit isolating."
She said the program also meant her son could look forward to a regular portion of time to himself as looking after his mother could be stressful for him.
I don't think I would have survived the past 12 months - it's been very traumatic for a number of reasons - had it not been for Centacare. They got me through a hell of a lot of tough times.Jenny Bearham
"Even just being a voice of reason to tell me it would be okay, that tomorrow is another day."
Centacare's Coordinator of Mental Health Services in Ballarat, Sue Grant, said respite was important due to how the level of stress could impact a carer's mental health.
"It's really important that someone actually provides time to support the carer and the care recipient so the carer can get a break," she said.
Centacare also provides short term accommodation to carers and their families at its 1950s residence Apple Tree Haven which is available for people to take a break.
The service takes referral from a range of services as well as self-referral. Contact Centacare on 5337 8999 to learn more.
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