Special needs parents – if there’s one thing we’re good at it’s getting stuff done. This often means juggling a dozen different tasks at once while anticipating our child’s needs, attending to their health concerns, worrying about what’s coming up in the future and…well the list goes on. All of this superhuman effort often comes at the expense of our own needs however. Carers can too easily forget to take care of themselves and while we all just get through somehow, we all need to take a break every now and again.
SO, WHO IS CARING FOR THE CARERS?
There are over three million people living in Australia who provide unpaid help and support to a family member or friend and currently there is no dedicated wellbeing centre for family carers. One organisation working to change this is The Carers Foundation Australia, which has been established in direct response to the growing number of carers in the community and the shortage of respite available to support them.
There are many amazing organisations which support those that are being cared for, but the issues facing the carers themselves are not being addressed on any comprehensive or widespread scale or in a way that is simple to access.
Founding Director of the Carers Foundation, Ronnie Benbow, has had a burning passion for over a decade to change this by providing a healing, nurturing centre to rejuvenate and educate family carers experiencing extreme stress and exhaustion. Having a professional background in health care and personal caring circumstances, Ronnie knows professionally and personally the relentless demands and debilitating stress that family carers endure daily.
Over the past 14 years, the co-founders have been personally funding carer rejuvenation breaks at a private retreat in a tranquil natural environment, north west of Brisbane. The programs at the retreat range from one day or multiple days allowing carers to have a period of relaxation, learn new stress management techniques, meet new friends and be with other carers in similar circumstances. Art therapy, mindfulness sessions, meditation and counselling are on offer as well as the opportunity for people to just be alone, walk to the creek and enjoy the beauty of the surroundings.
The space used for the retreats in Brisbane is currently leased and the Foundation has identified the increasing need to support family carers on a wider, more permanent scale.
The goal is to establish a purpose built, inspirational and nurturing centre that is available 24/7 allowing carers of all ages, culture and circumstance the opportunity to regain their mental and physical health through unique programs focussed on health rejuvenation, acknowledgment, empowerment, wellness education and regular, quality relief.
Ronnie is also passionate about caring for our younger carers, often the siblings of children with a disability, who miss out on so much of their childhood and teenage years. Most of these young people have mental health issues that are not addressed or recognised. The Foundation also have specialised wellness programs for these young people to inspire, empower, learn unique stress management skills, be with other kids in similar situations that completely understand, make new friends, and just have some ‘fun’.
Although based in Queensland, with the initial centre in Brisbane, carers are welcome from all over the country and the organisation’s vision is to replicate the Carers Foundation Australia Education and Wellness Support Centres nationally.
To find out more about the Foundation, the retreats that they currently run and how you can support them towards their goal visit www.thecarersfoundation.org
WHERE ELSE CAN YOU GO TO REST AND RESET AROUND AUSTRALIA?
A relaxing, restorative stay at one of the beautifully luxurious health and wellness retreats around Australia can be an out of reach dream for many of us, however, there are more economical options out there. Here are some ideas to get you started:
REST AND RESET RETREAT
Tanya Savva is a special-needs mama, wellness and life coach, yoga and mindfulness teacher, occupational therapist and remedial massage therapist. Her rest and reset retreat is a beautiful two day/two night retreat specifically developed for special mamas offering love and care to children living with additional needs.
Visit: www.tanyasavva.com/rest-reset-retreat/ for more information.
JOYLAND CARERS RETREAT
Joyland is a respite and retreat located 300 metres from the beach at Korora, just nine minutes north of Coffs Harbour where you can totally relax from your caring role. The owner, Ellen, has been a carer her whole life and provides an opportunity for self-care
in a restful and peaceful atmosphere. You’ll enjoy home cooked meals and days to sleep and rest, chat, laugh, relax or soak in a French tub. You can spend your time driving through the country, enjoying picnics on the beach, or taking in the delights of Coffs Harbour.
Visit www.joylandcarersretreat.com.au for more information.
Carers Outlook near Nambour on the Sunshine Coast hinterland is a home-based B&B created by a husband and wife team who wanted to create a place for fellow carers to take a break from their caring role. For more info email [email protected].
While not specifically for carers, Harmony Place Day Retreats give people the opportunity to de-stress and have a day of relaxation, enjoyment, and to be able to refocus on what is important in their lives. Massage, yoga, meditation and sessions with a range of therapists form part of a day dedicated to time out.
Visit harmonyplace.com.au for more information.
RONALD MACDONALD FAMILY RETREATS
If you just need a break from home rather than away from the whole family then Ronald Macdonald Family Retreats may be an option. The Family Retreat program gives families of sick children a place to relax, connect and spend precious time together. There are currently five Ronald McDonald Family Retreats in Australia including one in Palm Cove, Northern Queensland. Whether a cottage, beach house or country retreat, each Family Retreat is a holiday home kitted out with everything a family needs to spend a relaxing week together near the coast.
CARERS AUSTRALIA WA – ANNE BLUNTISH CARERS RETREAT
Located in South Perth, The Anne Bluntish Carers Retreat is a two-bedroom apartment overlooking the Swan River and Perth City. The apartment can accommodate up to four people and is walking distance to the ferry and Perth Zoo. It is open to carers over the age of 18 years who provide ongoing care and support to a family member or friend. The apartment can be booked for either 3 or 6 nights. Bookings can be made up to 6 months in advance. To book, please contact the Carers WA Events Team on 1300 227 377 or email [email protected].
COMMUNITY OF THE HOLY NAME
Community of the Holy Name are an Anglican Community in Melbourne whose main ministry is hospitality, offering their resources for spiritual renewal and refreshment. With extensive grounds in which to wander, they offer simple, comfortable accommodation for those wishing to take time out and share in the peacefulness and prayer of their Community. All food and linen are provided. There is no set charge: they ask for a donation towards costs. To make an enquiry, contact Sister Avrill on 03 9583 2087.
HEARTS IN MIND
Hearts in Mind are based in Greenhill, Victoria and offer lived experience of what
it means to be a carer for someone in your family who has additional needs. Their mission is to help female carers to recognise and take steps towards alleviating the consequences of stress in their own lives. They provide a soft landing place and some inspiration to help you look after your own wellbeing. You can make some time to sit in their quiet surrounds for a chat by emailing heartsinmindpr[email protected] or calling the Neighbourhood House on 9435 9287.
HEALTHY MOTHERS HEALTHY FAMILIES
This is a one-day program for women seeking to achieve better health, wellbeing and empowerment for themselves as they manage family duties. The program is presented by occupational therapist, Dr Helen Bourke-Taylor, and women’s health general practitioner, Dr Fiona Jane, at the Cerebral Palsy Education Centre in Glen Waverley. The program is based on research that identifies issues that challenge women with additional family responsibilities, and offers strategies to women to manage stress and stay strong. The workshop will be available for up to 50 mothers. Enquiries on dates and registrations can be made to [email protected] or by calling 03 9904 447.
Based on the NSW Central Coast, Wellbeing Retreats offer a variety of wellbeing day programs and live-in retreats for carers run by qualified Wellbeing Facilitators with extensive experience in supporting and nurturing carer groups. They provide a nurturing environment where individuals can take some time out for themselves to relax and recharge. Participants learn a variety of stress relieving, health enhancing modalities in an enjoyable and interactive way. For more information call 0410 158 098 or email [email protected].
GREEN GYM FOR CARERS
Green Gym is a free outdoor program for carers hosted by Conservation Volunteers Australia in Newcastle’s Glenrock State Conservation Area. Activities include habitat hikes, tree planting and weed removal. Green Gym for Carers improves health and wellbeing by reducing stress, being active and providing you with valuable time out for yourself. Transport is available from a central meeting point.
Visit conservationvolunteers.com.au/green- gym/ for more information.
Meet other parents and family carers of children with disabilities. MyTime is a place to socialise, to discuss, to get information, and to support and be supported by other carers. All MyTime groups have a trained facilitator, who helps group members get
to know each other and learn more about local resources and support services. You can bring your preschool-age children to MyTime. While you unwind, children are kept engaged nearby by MyTime play helpers. Find out more at www.mytime.net.au