Thursday, October 27, 2005



Here’s an idea which would make Australia a more compassionate and sensible place. I’d like to see the introduction of ‘on the job’ experience for all training doctors, nurses, social workers and advocates, politicians and bureaucrats.

I’d like to see all of them have to spend one full year, working and living in the house of a profoundly mentally disabled person, someone with severe chronic illness, or high level Quadriplegia who is bed bound by pressure areas, or person bed bound in last stage cancer or other terminal disease on their own.

This assignment would mean that they had to be in the home seven days a week, on call twenty four hours a day with only three hours allowed for respite so they could do banking, posting, and buy groceries for the household. They would be called on to contribute personally, to the cost of hiring someone to come to the house for that three hours. During this year they would be only allowed a Government allowance to live on and they would have to contribute to the upkeep of the household they were assigned to out of that...electricity, phone etc.

In this time I think they would begin to get a small idea of what ‘burnout’ really means; what isolation really means. The training doctors and nurses would learn what it means if their person is sent home from hospital with pressure sores, after they have tried so hard to keep the skin clear, in their ‘hospital of one’.

The training social workers, advocates, politicians and bureaucrats would probably give up after a week and think about a different career, as the prospect of being an unpaid carer for just one year would be too onerous, too unglamorous, too damn hard. There would be no conferencing at resorts, no meeting important dignitaries to get a better deal and more money for the disabled and carers, over bottles of bubbly and nibbly sandwiches at functions paid for by the taxpayers. Money which never trickles down through all the tiers of the “Advocacy” industry.

The car they used to enable them to use their three hours off for essential shopping would be old and always breaking down. It would not be air-conditioned as are so many government cars. Most would have to use shanks pony as the upkeep of a car would become impossible for them. This would cut into their three hours respite depending on their proximity to the CBD.

Those who survived this year and returned to their homes and careers would then do well to contemplate that most carers do what they did for one year, for a decade, decades or for some, it can be all they will know. They should consider that these carers have children, ailing parents, illness and injuries, and other serious life events, as well as being the full time carer of their loved one.

Its just an idea. It might seem radical to some; might upset the comfort zone of most and might just be too hard for training doctors, nurses, social workers, advocates, politicians and bureaucrats.

But it would begin to give some justice to the million of so full time carers who save this country well over $25billion plus a year. Were they to all withdraw all their labour this is what it would cost Australia. These are not my figures. But they would never do that because they actually love  and care for the people they look after, which is something that the doctors, nurses, social workers and advocates, politicians and bureaucrats will never do.
Therese Mackay

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