David Morrell is legally blind and is the sole carer for his wife Carol who is in a wheelchair after having a stroke, followed by a heart attack.
- David Morrell has decided to cancel support services to limit contact with others and protect his wife from COVID-19
- Advocates say carers have decided to distance themselves and their loved ones out of fear
- The Government has injected $50 million into a home support program for older Australians
The Tasmanian man has decided to cut all interaction with the outside world to protect his wife from the coronavirus pandemic.
But cancelling their paid aide has further increased his workload.
“[Carol is] not able to do very much at all to look after herself. She needs help with showering, dressing, getting food,” he said.
“I do the best I can with my low vision, which is not very [much] but we can live with it.”
The couple in their 60s was adhering to the social distancing rules weeks before the Federal Government requested it.
They subsequently cancelled cleaning services and ordered food supplies and medications at the doorstep.
“The thing that I think might bring us undone — if anything will — is if Carol has a health crisis, which is highly likely to occur sometime in the next six months,” Mr Morrell said.
“If she were to get the virus, it’ll be likely to hit her very hard. And because of her age and her illnesses, she’d be likely to need intensive care unit.”
Mr Morrell has gone above and beyond to limit interaction with others and going outside to avoid having to make “some fairly harsh decisions”.
His primary concerns are his wife not making it in the hospital and health services becoming too overwhelmed during the pandemic to respond to her needs.
“About a week ago, when Carol had a fall. I wasn’t able to help get her up,” he said.
“Already the ambulance was overwhelmed. They said they couldn’t get there, and indeed they didn’t get there for over an hour.
“Eventually the only way I could get her up was to go doorknocking the neighbourhood.”
Mr Morrell anticipates there will be “other events of that nature” during the pandemic — and no-one would help them.
“I would be unlikely to find a friendly neighbour to come in and help her up again,” he said.
“The social distancing would make it challenging. I think everyone would have to be pretty desperate and eager to help.”
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‘Acting out of love’ compromises carers’ health
Carers Australia has estimated that one-in-eight people in Australia is an unpaid carer — most commonly for their family member.
In Tasmania, the ratio is higher, with every sixth person committing to the role “as an act of love”.
Carers Tasmania chief executive David Brennan said many carers were of poor health themselves — 22 per cent are over 65 years old, and 32 per cent have a disability.
He said some had stopped accessing services for cleaning, personal hygiene and food preparation for fear visitors could bring COVID-19 into their home.
“They’ve stopped that support and when they’ve done that, it’s increased the load and stress and anxiety and burden on those carers,” he said.
He said carers sometimes even put their own health at risk.
“That has resulted for particularly vulnerable carers in not going to medical appointments or not going out just to even get groceries,” he said.
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Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck said senior Australians requiring help at home during the COVID-19 pandemic can contact My Aged Care to access support Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP).
“Services available through the CHSP include assistance with shopping, meals delivery and cleaning, respite care, social support (over the phone or internet), and clinical services such as physiotherapy and nursing,” he said in a statement.
“On 31 March 2020, the Government announced an additional investment of $50 million over the next six months to boost the capacity of CHSP meals providers to deliver cooked meals to older Australians.”
The Government said this would fund the delivery of over 3.5 million additional meals.