Even a brave Sea Wolf needs a break!

Even a brave Sea Wolf needs a break!

Caring, and taking a break from caring looks different to everyone. And time out for Verley MacGregor is running into the waves at a Mount Martha beach early each morning with a group of women friends all howling like wolves!

Verley, who looks after her husband Bob, is a member of the Sea Wolves – a group of up to 80 fun-loving women who do just that. They strip down to bathers or a wet suit, form a circle, hold hands and howling and often giggling, go in for a bracing swim. “It’s exhilarating!” she says. “They’re a great group of women, and we’re all great friends.”

During National Carers Week, from October 15-21 we’re highlighting that support is available to help carers, like Verley, every step of the way along what can be a difficult and exhausting journey.

Verley is grateful to be able to be part of the early morning swim routine three times a week. She nips down to the beach while her husband, Bob, who lives with Alzheimer’s disease, receives a personal care as part of his government funded home care package through Uniting AgeWell.

Bob also attends the Uniting AgeWell Andrew Kerr Care Day Centre from 9am – 2.30pm twice a week for social inclusion. Around a dozen older people, including those with cognitive impairments, attend the centre where they have social activities, games and bus outings (which have recently been introduced), as well as morning tea and a hot lunch. The programs are funded though Commonwealth Home Support Program, but can also be accessed by those with home care packages.

“Bob has a lovely time,” says Verley. “He looks forward to going, and he loves the friendship and all the activities, as well of course as the wonderful lunches.”

Verley uses these longer breaks to get on top of sorting out their home. Their unit in a retirement village in Mount Martha was flooded last year, and they stayed at various places while repairs were underway, only moving back recently.

Verley says 83-year-old Bob has also been for longer respite care at Uniting AgeWell Andrew Kerr Community residential facility while she recovered from lung surgery. “I’m not sure what we would have done without their help,” says Verley. “I was in no position to look after anyone while I recovered.”

While Verley, 78, is incredibly positive and upbeat, she admits that being a carer is exhausting. Their family is scattered across the world. “So when it comes to looking after Bob, I’m it!” she laughs. “But of course I couldn’t do it without Uniting AgeWell in my corner. The home carers are just lovely, they are all so kind, and they do an amazing job. The activities centre is also great, and I can’t praise the residential facility enough. They’re all so caring and supportive there.”

Program Manager Ruth Crawshaw says home care packages allow older people to be instrumental in designing what their futures look like.

No matter where you live in Melbourne, there is help at hand.

Find out more about respite and carer support