Empathy, patience, trust: Thank you to all our carers

Clinical Governance patient experience officer Carmen Hoffman also cares for her parents Antonio and Carmen.

Carmen Hoffmann has been looking after patients for 27 years but her eyes were opened to another side when it came to caring for her parents.

The nurse and patient safety officer is among nearly 1,800 Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) staff who provide informal care in additional to their regular work.

“I have three children so with my parents it is almost like having five children sometimes. It can be really relentless,” Carmen said.

“It’s so important to reach out. I’m lucky to have my sister, we offer each other respite and support, and also an understanding workplace where I’ve always been encouraged to put my family first.”

October 13-19 is National Carers Week, a time to recognise and celebrate the invaluable contribution of more than 2.7 million volunteer carers around Australia.

Alma Zerafa cares for her son Alfred Zerafa. The patient experience team was handing out carer support packs at Westmead Hospital on Monday morning.

WSLHD chief executive Graeme Loy is encouraging staff this week to thank a carer for partnering with the district to improve patient health and safety.

“I have the utmost respect for all of our staff who manage caring responsibilities alongside their work and other commitments,” Graeme said.

“Being a carer can be demanding and it is important that carers look after themselves.”

Carmen’s contributions include helping her parents with their personal care and arranging and attending medical appointments as her parents are from a non-English speaking background.

She is grateful for the continuity of care her father Antonio has received from Westmead Hospital cardiologist Dr Mark Cooper for nearly 20 years.

“Becoming a carer tests and grows your patience and really develops your empathy,” Carmen said.

“It’s definitely given me a better understanding when dealing with families in my role.”

Carmen’s advice for other carers is to be proactive with seeking a variety of multidisciplinary help, stay on top of medications and appointments, and a good diet is important too.

To avoid burnout she recommends sharing the load and using the support services available.

The Australian Government has developed the Carer Gateway to support carers in their roles. The site includes everything from tips for advocating for patients and handling legal matters to getting respite and planning for emergencies.

Additional support is available via the WSLHD Carer Program, which provides advocacy and assistance in relation to leave for working carers, inservice carer education, events and resources. To find out more, email wslhd-carerprogram@health.nsw.gov.au. Free counselling is also available to all WSLHD staff at any time via the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).