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The Ipswich Multi-Service Centre’s ‘Working Carer’s Program’ – Ken & Kathleen’s story

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Fruit farmer, father to four, and grandfather to five, Ken, 69, Ipswich, has been married to the love of his life, Kathleen, 70, for the past 44 years.

In March 2018 however, their world was turned upside down when Kathleen received a diagnosis of dementia – a group of thinking and social symptoms that interfere with daily functioning, behaviour, and the ability to perform everyday tasks.

Ken was subsequently thrust into the role of Kathleen’s carer – an emotionally, physically, and financially challenging task – as he watched dementia cruelly, and progressively rob Kathleen of her autonomy.

Eventually, juggling work on the family fruit farm in Esk with the commitments of Kathleen’s care, proved too difficult for Ken. So, two-and-a-half years ago, he turned to the Ipswich Multi-Service Centre’s Working Carer’s Program to place Kathleen in the hands of full-time, professional, personalised care, thereby enabling him to continue to provide for his family.

Run by Alzheimer’s Queensland, with Queensland Health funding support, the Working Carer’s Program assists Kathleen with high-quality, safe and effective, centre-based, and in-home respite care, while also offering Ken both a break from the demands of caring, and the opportunity to continue to perform his everyday tasks.

Importantly, continuing to work on his fruit farm throughout the day, and provide care for Kathleen at night, and on the weekends, has enabled Ken to maintain his mental health and wellbeing. Furthermore, accessing professional care has served to prevent Kathleen’s premature admission to a hospital or a residential aged care facility.  

This is their story.

When diagnosed with dementia in March 2018, Kathleen’s GP suggested that she consider visiting the Alzheimer’s Queensland Ipswich Multi-Service Centre for professional care and support. Both Kathleen and Ken were familiar with the centre and its multitude of high-quality services, given Kathleen’s mum, who too lived with dementia, often visited the centre.

Post- diagnosis, Kathleen’s cognitive function continued to decline, to the extent that she eventually came to rely on full-time care.

Visiting the Ipswich Multi-Service Centre four times a week offers Kathleen crucial emotional, mental and physical support. The centre has enabled Kathleen to build strong social friendships, while the mental stimulation she gleans from the centre allows her and Ken to achieve a good night’s sleep.

“There has never been an occasion where Kathleen has indicated that she does not want to go to the centre. She waits for the carers to arrive each morning to take her,” said Ken.

Carers from the Working Carer’s Program offer Kathleen invaluable, in-home assistance, four days a week. They arrive early in the morning to shower, dress, and assist with breakfast, before driving her to the Ipswich Multi-Service Centre.

Utilising both day centre respite and in-home support services enables Kathleen to continue to live in the comfort of her own home, to receive visits from her children and grandchildren who live close by, and to prevent her premature entry into residential care.

The Working Carer’s Program has also proven invaluable to Ken, without which, he would no longer be able to visit, and work on, his family fruit farm, which has been in his family for 70 years. According to Ken, the program gives him “peace of mind that Kathleen is being well cared for, while also allowing me to protect my own mental health and wellbeing.

Kathleen at the Ipswich Multi-Service Centre maintaining some of her homemaker skills

“Alzheimer’s Queensland has perfected a process of care that keeps Kathleen happy and satisfied. It’s a first-class service,” Ken said.

Given the many challenges afflicting Queenslanders over the past two years, from the COVID-19 pandemic, droughts and floods, Alzheimer’s Queensland has announced that from today, up until June 30, 2022, the organisation is waiving all fees for those wishing to access their Working Carer’s Program service, thereby offering the West Moreton community increased access to their invaluable services.

Ken urges other carer’s from the West Moreton region looking after a loved one, a relative or friend living with some form of memory loss, to seek assistance from the Working Carer’s Program without delay.

“The Working Carer’s Program enables me to continue to do the things I enjoy, knowing that my wife is being well looked after and Kathleen is receiving the mental stimulation she requires day-to-day.

“The program carer’s are incredible. I couldn’t ask for better service,” said Ken.

The Ipswich Multi Service Centre’s Working Carer’s Program is now available, free of charge, up until June 30, 2022, to those juggling work, volunteer or study-related commitments. The program offers day respite, small social outings and in-home support services for the carer.

To register for complimentary access to the Working Carer’s Program in West Moreton up until June 30, 2022, please call 1800 639 331 (between 8:30am to 4:30pm) or email carersupport@alzqld.org.au


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