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Caring for Kiwi Carers

MEDIA RELEASE                                                                                                                          

September 2009                          

Caring for Kiwi Carers

Continence is a hidden problem in Kiwi families.  At least 420,000 New Zealanders * care at home for an ill, disabled or elderly family member, helping with personal care tasks such as showering and toileting.

The NZ Continence Association is highlighting the often unsung role of carers during its annual Continence Awareness Week (September 7-12).

“People can be thrown into a caring situation overnight, or it can happen gradually following the diagnosis of a condition such as dementia,” says NZCA chief executive Jan Zander.

“Carers often have to help with personal care tasks such as showering, dressing, and toileting.  We want carers to know that help is available if they need advice about continence, and also to celebrate their wonderful contribution to families and society.”

Family caring is a role that is often taken for granted, Zander says.  “We need to think more about carers because with more of us living at home for longer, with higher levels of health and disability need, we have to make sure we also care for the carers.”

Family carers are New Zealand’s biggest health workforce and their unpaid work has an annual economic value of $3.5 billion.

Carers receive little coaching about how to cope with continence in a home setting.  Tasks can range from reminding someone to regularly visit the toilet, to 24/7 situations involving bowel and bladder incontinence, management of stomas, how to access advice, services and continence products.

The NZCA is working with national peak body Carers NZ, and the NZ Carers Alliance coalition, to lobby for standardised continence services, funding and policy improvements.  It will make a case for a national continence strategy to the Government in September.  Alliance participants include 45 national non-profits advocating for government improvements for family carers.

Carers and people who have continence questions can receive free advice by phoning the national continence helpline, 0800 650 659.  Callers are referred to a continence advisor in their area who can provide advice over the phone, and help callers access a continence assessment, treatment and/or government-funded briefs and other aids.

Carers NZ and the NZCA are working together to develop learning resources for family carers who manage continence needs at home.  Their listen and learn series can be heard at www.familycareradio.netand there is also a link from www.continence.org.nz

There is also a continence advisory section in each issue of the free quarterly magazine, Family Care NZ.  To order a subscription, phone Carers NZ 0800 777 797 or email info@carers.net.nz

On September 24 and 25 the NZCA is providing free continence learning workshops at the National Carers Conference, to be held at Auckland’s Waipuna Events Centre.  Carers and others who would like to attend the workshops can RSVP by phone or email.

•       Source, Census 2006

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