A PROPOSAL to provide carers with specialised support and a break from the all-consuming work of looking after a loved one has won state government funding.
The Caring for Carers program pitched by Avondale Lifestyle Community (ALC), in Cooranbong, was one of three projects voted for by Lake Macquarie residents in the state government's inaugural My Community Project scheme.
The respite program will receive $20,000 and will begin in February.
Social worker at ALC, Megan Cousins, said the program would offer relief for some forgotten heroes in the community - those locals who cared for a loved one who was aged, ill or infirm.
"Caring is fairly relentless," Ms Cousins said.
"For some people it's all day and all night, so breaks are very important."
The respite program will be held on the first Thursday of every month, to coincide with an existing carers group at ALC.
At the existing carers group meetings, carers remain in the company of their loved ones.
It means carers can't always talk openly about problems and how hard it is to care for a loved one when that loved one is in the same room.
The Caring for Carers program will enable carers to meet in a separate space while their loved ones are supervised by trained care staff who will engage them in activities.
"So the carers will be in a separate, secure unit where it will be a lot more private, and the carers will be undisturbed," Ms Cousins said.
There, it's hoped the carers will connect with and gain support from other carers in an environment that allows for open and honest communication.
The new program has been welcomed by carers such as Lionel Hughes, of Cooranbong.
Mr Hughes, 81, has looked after his wife, Joy, 76, since 2015, as she recovered from brain cancer.
He already speaks highly of ALC's existing carers group meetings.
"It's quite therapeutic for people to be able to discuss issues of caring and ageing with other people who know what they're talking about," Mr Hughes said.
He said the existing meetings were already a monthly highlight for carers.
"The meetings are a chance to get good information about ageing and dementia. They have some good guest speakers, and there's a chance to have some dialogue with those speakers," he said.
Guest speakers include geriatricians, stroke education officers, legal experts and phyiscal therapists.
The Caring for Carers program is open to all carers in the district, and will include morning tea and a light lunch, Ms Cousins said.
Phone 4977 0149 for details.