Celebrating carers, the unsung heroes of the healthcare system

Photo courtesy of Getty images.

Two days before his fiftieth birthday Tony Smith was hospitalised and admitted to Blacktown Hospital intensive care unit – making it his second birthday in a row spent at the hospital.

However, thanks to Blacktown Hospital ICU staff, this year’s occasion was the one to remember.

Tony’s older sister and carer Margaret said that what started as a disappointing day turned out to be a “pretty amazing experience”.

“I to check on Tony’s condition and asked to pass him a message,” Margaret said.

“I wanted him to know that we all remembered about his birthday. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 we could not visit him.”

The nurse looking after Tony quickly organised a slice of cake and a video call where Margaret got to sing “Happy Birthday” to him virtually.

“Tony was intubated and could not talk, but he gave us two thumbs up. He knew we did not abandon him on his birthday,” Margaret said.

“I’m so grateful to the ICU staff who stopped whatever they were doing to give Tony a small birthday celebration.

“It lifted our spirits and I think it really helped his recovery. Little things like this make such a big difference for patients and of course us, carers.”

This week we celebrate National Carers Week – and carers make up nearly 11 per cent of Australia’s population.

Patient and carer experience officer Joana Andre Garrido (right) visiting a patient and his carer at Auburn Hospital. Photo was taken before the lockdown.

Every week informal carers provide 42 million hours of care to loved ones who are living with a disability, mental illness, drug and or alcohol dependency, chronic condition, terminal illness or who are frail or aged.

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) patient and carer experience officer Joana Andre Garrido said that often people do not consider themselves as carers. In their eyes, they are simply doing what must be done to help make the lives of a family member or friend that little bit better.

“Unpaid carers are the unsung heroes of the healthcare system,” Joana said.

“We need to look after them an appreciate that caregiving can have impact on a carer’s wellbeing.

“If you know someone who is a carer you can help by offering them a break, listening to their concerns and acknowledging the impact of their caregiving.”

During the COVID-19 outbreak many people have taken on more caring responsibilities for their relatives and friends who are disabled, ill, older or need support.

Patient experience team is continually working with staff across the district to ensure the best support for carers.

Auburn Hospital general manager Jenelle Matic visiting a patient. Photo was taken before the lockdown.
  • Blacktown and Mount Druitt emergency department patient experience coordinators have logged hours of phone calls to families and carers who could not be with patients due to visiting restrictions. This allowed carers receive regular updates on how their loved ones were doing and be informed about discharge or admission times.
  • Blacktown and Mount Druitt Hospitals Family Connect program keeps carers in touch with patients.
  • Clinicians across the district have embraced various technologies to keep in touch with carers and include them in the patients care.

 “In western Sydney we know the value of carers for our patients and we support our many staff who are carers themselves,” Joana said.

“Please take some time in Carers Week to let the carers in your life or work know what an important and valuable role they play for those they care for and the wider community. We invite carers to take part in the Carer Survey.”

National Carers Week runs from 10 – 16 October 2021. It is an opportunity to recognise, celebrate, and raise awareness about the diversity of Australia’s 2.65 million carers and their caring roles.

WSLHD Patient and Carer Team have developed a WSLHD Carer Website. The website allows carers to access information including:

For any patient and carer experience inquiries please email wslhd-carerprogram@health.nsw.gov.au.