Volunteers needed to help out elderly

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Age Concern Nelson Tasman desperately needs volunteers to help provide temporary relief to families and individuals who are caring for elderly people with disabilities.

Age Concern has a contract with the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board to provide carer relief for full-time carers throughout Nelson and Tasman.

However, Age Concern’s funding and community support coordinator Wendy Duffy says they are “struggling” to find enough people to provide this service and as a result have launched a campaign to recruit more volunteers.

“We get lots of queries from people looking for at-home, informal respite care, but unfortunately we struggle to find volunteers to support this service,” Wendy says.

“We have six volunteers at present and we really need a pool of 20.”

Wendy says relief carers play an important role in looking after older people with disabilities and also in supporting the primary carer.

“Relief carers provide an invaluable service that allows a disabled person to remain living at home in their community. They also assist the primary carer by allowing them to have a break and have time to themselves without the worry of who’s going to care for their family member.”

Age Concern manager Sue Tilby says many of the primary care givers are people over 80 who are looking after their partner. She says they need support because it’s “a 24-7 job that can be very lonely” and often results in people becoming “socially isolated and frustrated”.

“I have done some relief care-giving when we have been short of volunteers and you see the joy on the faces of the primary care giver when they are able to get out. It gives you an incredible feeling.”

Wendy says Age Concern trains, supervises and supports all relief carers, who are thoroughly “vetted” before they can start.

Age Concern also introduces relief carers to the clients and their full-time carer, to make sure everyone is happy with the support arrangements.

Wendy stresses that volunteer relief carers are “companions” and are not required for any nursing duties.

Although relief carers are voluntary, Wendy says they receive a contribution to their costs.

Anyone who is interested in Age Concern’s carer support service, or would like to become a relief carer, can contact Sue on 544 7624.