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Q & A with Your Side Ambassador Tracey Spicer

Can you explain a bit about your role as Your Side’s ambassador? As Your Side’s Ambassador, I’m really keen to start a national conversation about carers, who are Australia’s unsung heroes. Almost 70% of carers are women, who are often also juggling work and looking after children. While care is unpaid, it contributes an estimated $60 billion a year to the economy. We need to give carers as much support as we can. Navigating the aged care system in this country is extremely complex. If I can do anything to help simplify this process – through information, education and conversation – that would be a privilege. We’re going through this maze in my family right now.

Can you elaborate on what the upcoming ‘In Conversation’ sessions will entail? I understand exploring some of the challenges people are facing in trying to access quality aged care and assistance will be a major focus? Aged Care is something an overwhelming majority of people will experience, but we don’t talk about it enough and we don’t talk about it early enough. The Royal Commission has unearthed some concerns and some structural problems with the sector, but how can people take control of their own journey? We want to arm people with enough information to make informed decisions, and to know what their options are. This has been an incredibly stressful year for families, because of the pandemic. At Your Side, the team works really hard to take some of the stress away from families faced with a system that’s needlessly complex. We want to work with government to simplify the process for everyone. Most of us want to age safely, confidently and independently at home. Setting up good home care support and services early from cleaning and gardening to mobility aids and social support can help ensure that. It’s important to plan early because of the waiting lists for home care packages. We’re going through this with my Dad at the moment. This is where Your Side’s expert care consultants can help.

As someone who has experienced it firsthand, what are some of the ways people can start these conversations about support and care with ageing parents? We’re fortunate because Dad is comfortable talking about care options. But it’s not always so simple to start the conversation. People struggle to cope with change, and a perceived loss of independence. Dad now has support with cleaning in the house, and gardening outside. He’s developed quite a rapport with the lovely woman who does the cleaning, so these services provide company, as well. Here are my tips about talking to your ageing parents about getting home care to remain living safely, confidently and independently at home:

  • Approach it gently – it can be a sensitive topic. Listen to their input and what they have to say.
  • Explain they may only need a little bit of help and it is not about losing control or independence. It is more just about getting a bit of support and services to help live a comfortable life at home.
  • Explain that home and aged care services are also there to help and assist them to lead a more independent, enjoyable and fulfilling life. It can lead to more social activities and broaden friendship and support groups.
  • Be patient and understanding – just like your parents did for you in your teenage years. Empathise and let them know you are there for them.
  • Create a support team and cheer squad. Each family member and friend plays a particular role in your parent’s life.

In the wake of the Royal Commission into Aged Care, do you think it is especially important now to be having these conversations about equity and care? Absolutely! The stories we heard from the Royal Commission were horrific and heartbreaking. We need to reframe how we view our elders. I’m also concerned about disparaging comments made about elderly people during the pandemic. Australia is a wealthy country, yet we see too many people retiring into poverty. Everyone deserves to age with dignity and respect.

What are some of the factors about your work that you particularly love? I’ve always been interested in the ability of storytelling to change hearts and minds. It’s wonderful to be able to use the skills I’ve acquired as a journalist over the past 30 years to discuss issues around social justice.

Favourite pastime/hobby? Paddle boarding! We’re so fortunate to live in a city with such stunning waterways. I love paddling on Cabbage Tree Bay near Shelly Beach, because it’s a marine reserve.

Favourite career moment? Producing and presenting documentaries about women and girls in Bangladesh, Kenya, Uganda and India, which I’ve done over the past 25 years. I met the most extraordinary advocates changing the course of history, including one woman from rural Uganda whose actions led to laws against domestic violence.

A subject or cause you are passionate about? Gender equity and human rights.

* Tracey Spicer AM is the Ambassador for Your Side. Call the friendly and expert team at Your Side on 1300 134 332 or email customercare@yourside.org.au for any advice or information about Home Care Packages. If you are a carer that needs support or respite call the Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737.