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New project helps carers plan for the future


Zuleika Henderson
29 July 2008
The final report of a 12-month study looking into how older carers of adults with a disability can plan for the future will be launched this week at Tweed Heads.

The report has been prepared by the Aged Services Learning and Research Centre (ASLaRC) of Southern Cross University with the NSW Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care.

Chief investigator of the study and director of ASLaRC, Professor Colleen Cartwright, said that the project had involved 10 families from Tweed, Murwillumbah, Ballina and Port Macquarie who were helped to plan for the future in a practical way.

“The family was helped to decide how they might respond if the carer suddenly became unable to look after the person with the disability,” said Professor Cartwright.

“Through interviews with the project coordinator and information sessions with service providers including solicitors and financial advisors, they became aware of options such as alternative accommodation, nominating people for substitute decision making and financial arrangements.

“They also completed a profile of the person with the disability, including their medical history, their likes and dislikes and other important personal details to help another person to step into the role of the carer at short notice in the case of an emergency.”

The project, entitled ‘Futures Planning for Older Carers of Adults with a Disability,’ has been such a success that the NSW Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care has already confirmed funding for a second phase of the research.

The additional work will focus on training service providers to assist other families in this situation to complete the personal profiles and futures plans, so that a broader range of people from more locations across the state can be reached.

Professor Cartwright said that the planning helped carers to address some of their greatest fears.

“Improved health care means that people with disabilities are increasingly outliving their carers,” she said.

“Instead of feeling distressed about the future or simply trying not to think about it, the families we worked with said that they felt reassured that appropriate arrangements had been made in the case of a crisis.

“Carers felt more at ease about whatever may lie ahead and in some cases, it encouraged the people with the disability to become more independent.

“These kinds of plans provide essential support for our carers – and by caring for our carers we can care for everyone.”

The launch will take place at the Dusk Room of the South Tweed Bowls Club on Wednesday 30 July at 10:30am and will be attended by Chris Leach, Regional Director of the NSW Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care, Professor Paul Clark, Vice-Chancellor of Southern Cross University, researchers from the University’s Aged Services Learning and Research Centre and participants in the project.

Photo: Professor Colleen Cartwright (High resolution image available on request)