Levin based Charmaine cares for her husband who suffers from multiple conditions and is becoming increasingly immobile, a 19 year-old daughter who is autistic and a 21 year-old daughter with intellectual disabilities, which is developing into increasing loss of speech and mobility.
“As a caregiver you give out from the moment you get up until you flop into bed exhausted. You often feel like you have done 12 hours in the mine. While I do it all for love, I’m not a machine and you need something back,” says Charmaine.
National learning pilot a great success
Charmaine was one of 12 home-based carers who took part in Te Pou funded training pilot, run in partnership between Carers NZ and Careerforce (the Industry Training Organisation for the health, wellbeing, disability and social services sectors).
Obtaining the New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing Level 2 qualification last year is real recognition for Charmaine and it’s been the catalyst to changes that are having positive flow down affects to the family she supports.
“To have been recognised and encouraged for what I do in a real way makes me feel cared about. I was so supported through the training and I now truly feel recognised.”
While she says the learning itself was simple – the stuff she has been living and breathing for 20 plus years, it was the exposure to different ways of thinking about things and about systemising tasks that was most beneficial.
Getting older and her own fibromyalgia has been weighing heavily on Charmaine’s mind. “While I am very organised in my daily tasks, I’m experiencing increasing brain fog and I am bone tired. I have taken the need for automating and systemising the care of my family to heart – it couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Charmaine has begun the process of documenting detailed care routines for each family member, enabling someone in the future to use this document to help with a continued care routine as close as possible to what they are used to. “It goes beyond this and into things like online grocery shopping. Saving me the time and having to leave the house…and I don’t have to carry heavy groceries. They come to me.”
Additional to the “how to” manuals, Charmaine has started observation books for all three of her charges. “You forget stuff and it’s important to record milestones, or issues and concerns as they happen.” She knows this will be a valuable resource in the coming years and it is manifesting itself in less hands-on activities for Charmaine on a daily basis. She gets some external carer hours each week for two of her family and through systemisation is getting better at sharing some of the tasks and getting these carers more involved.
A love of art
In 2014, Charmaine completed a New Zealand Certificate in Art and Creativity. While plans (and grants) were in place for her to continue onto an art diploma, this didn’t come to fruition. “What I see now is the possibility of combining my love of art with my experience in the disability field in positive ways.” Charmaine is enthusiastic about the future and is thankful for the Careerforce training as she sees possibilities for her in a number of previously undreamed of fields. “It’s opened my eyes to other possible futures – I can do much more than clean someone else’s lino.
“Gaining this qualification really has changed life up a bit for myself.”