22 October 2010

Goodna woman devotes life to care

DISPLAYING a level of dedication few can match, Ellie Chalk is among the millions of carers Australia-wide who unselfishly provide love and ongoing support around the clock.

For the past 20 years, the Goodna resident has been her husband Harry's primary carer after his health deteriorated.

With limited mobility, Harry now uses an electric wheelchair and has no function or feeling from the neck down.

Doctors have so far been unable to diagnose his condition, but it is thought to be a virus similar to polio, which has caused permanent paralysis.

In the midst of National Carers Week, the Chalks highlight what is an often unspoken reality, that carers are the foundation of our health, aged care, palliative and community care systems.

Spinal Injuries Association CEO Mark Henley said unpaid carers played a vital role in the community.

"And while it's a role that people often take on unquestionably because they're caring for a loved one, being a carer can take an enormous toll on your health," he said.

"A 2007 survey of carers' health and wellbeing found caring for someone does not get easier with time, more than one third of carers experience severe or extreme stress, and the major reason carers don't receive treatment for themselves is that they have no time.The role of carers cannot be underestimated."

Mrs Chalk said there was never any option about caring for her husband of 38 years – she just had to.

"We've only had paid support workers come to our house to assist Harry for the past 10 years," she said.

"We receive four hours help a day but it's not really enough. When you consider that Harry needs assistance with everything from the time he wakes up in the morning to the time he goes to bed at night, four hours isn't a lot."

While they face many ongoing challenges, the Chalks also have a lot of love and laughter in their lives, with two daughters and five grandchildren.

"There's no point moping about it. Have a bit of fun," Mr Chalk said.

"It can be difficult, but it's a two-way street and I try to be supportive of Ellie and the challenges she faces."

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