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Ann no longer the 'forgotten' carer

A pilot program for carers of people with communications disabilities has given Ann Rowe important knowledge to improve her life and that of her husband.
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Villa Maria care advisor, Krishna Dutton (left), with Ann Rowe.

Ms Rowe, whose husband Tony experiences communication difficulties after problems during surgery, took part in the six week program run by Villa Maria's Rehabilitation and Wellbeing Centre and Eastern Carer Services.

The program gives carers of people with communication disabilities strategies to cope with the added burden of looking after their loved one.

Ms Rowe says she has learnt some valuable skills and appreciates the focus on carers, although she wishes the program is longer to consolidate friendships and what she has learnt.

"I felt we got a sample of everything," she says. "Carers are so often forgotten. There's not a lot of focus on how we cope... this gives you permission to look after yourself too."

Villa Maria care advisor, Krishna Dutton, says group members identify what they want to get out of the group, which informed the content of the program for the six week pilot.

This includes sessions about relaxation strategies, pastoral care, grief and loss, music therapy and physical exercises to promote brain function – which can be done with the care recipient.

"Peer support was really important to the group, to be able to share their experiences and some strategies with one another in their caring role," Ms Dutton says.

She says it's important carers learn relaxation techniques and how important it was to look after themselves.

Speech pathologist, Jacqui Holland, says the group also learns how to access carer services at Villa Maria.

Ms Holland and Ms Dutton are now evaluating the program and its outcomes and hope to offer more groups in the future.

"We have some recommendations about things we've learnt along the way, including offering it for a longer time frame," Ms Holland says.

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