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Initiative to support family carers of residents will ‘change lives’

When an older person moves into residential aged care, their loved one who has been caring for them at home often feels grief and isolation – but a new program aims to help.

A carer support model pioneered by The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) will deliver a pioneering open-sourced ageing and caring service.

The Weavers program recently launched at Helping Hand Mawson Lakes following program development at the site and funding investment from Helping Hand, a leading aged care provider in South Australia.

The Weavers program connects family carers of new residents

Helping Hand chief executive Ian Hardy said the program would have a profound and positive impact on family carers of residents in their facilities.

“Choosing to bring a loved one in to a care home is a big decision and creates a range of experiences such as isolation and grief.

“For the carer, they often feel lost as they are no longer needed in the same way. Weavers can take someone who is lost and help them find their way,” Mr Hardy said.

Weavers is described as a peer support model where experienced carers are recruited, trained and connected to others who guide them through an “adaptive caring loop” and help them to navigate support services, mobilise family and friends and increase community connections.

The program also aims to address guilt, grief, and loss associated with caring, find ways to help family carers look after their own health and wellbeing and build resilience and hope for the future.

TACSI developed Weavers as part of its ageing focus and the organisation’s principal in ageing Kerry Jones said the program was already proving to improve the mental health and assertiveness of participants.

“We know its improving people’s mental health and the outcomes for carers. This has looked like carer’s being able to be more assertive in their caring role and take control of their situation, thus improving the use of services that better suited the needs of those being cared for,” she said.

The program aims to address some of the well-documented challenges facing family carers, such as mental health issues and poor support.

Some 2.6 million Australians are currently providing support for a loved one in an unpaid caring role, yet carers have the lowest wellbeing of any population subgroup.

Studies have shown one third of carers have severe or extremely severe depression.

Program will ‘change lives’

Aileen Rowse cared for her mother for several years while she was living in a retirement village. She would visit her mother twice a day, every day before she moved in to Helping Hand Mawson Lakes last year.

Ms Rowse is the “local connector” on the Weavers program who will match experienced and new carers.

“I think this is going to be so important, and will change lives,” she said.

Available for use, adaption free of charge

TACSI has chosen to open source Weavers which means the program is available to the general public for use and/or adaptation from its original design free of charge.

“Understanding all the value that Weavers was providing propelled us to find a way we could share it with everyone so that others could benefit from our learnings,” Ms Jones said.

“After some months of work we decided the best way to give back what we have learnt was by open-sourcing the model. In the open source online package people can download everything an organisation needs to run Weavers,” she said.

Helping Hand Mawson Lakes is the first Australian site to offer Weavers.

TACSI reported that a Queensland organisation had recently adopted the program through the open-source model.

For more information contact Erin Martin at TACSI on (08) 7325 4949.

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