Belinda Barrie was thrust into her role as a full-time primary caregiver when her late husband, John-Michael, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2010.
Aged 39, and married only 18 months, Ms Barrie began the gradual process of surrender: first her small business, then John-Michael’s full-time wage, next their home, and eventually John-Michael himself.
Over the next 11 years, Ms Barrie cared for her husband through his diagnosis, chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, graft-versus-host disease, endless hospital visits and medical appointments – right to the very end, nursing him through palliative care at home with the support of Ipswich Hospital.
It was during this time, in 2014, that Ms Barrie joined a West Moreton Health consumer and community advisory group now known as the Consumer and Community Advisory Council.
“I was sitting in the hospital during one of John-Michael’s many stays, wondering how I could provide feedback to make it easier for hospital staff and carers to collaborate,” Ms Barrie said.
“I wanted carers to be recognised as an important part of the care team for the patient.
“Since then, I have witnessed improvements in the language used towards carers, more respectful clinical handovers provided to carers, and better treatment towards carers and the role they play.”
Ms Barrie said it was important for carers to reach out to their support network and engage in self-care activities whenever they can.
“Anyone can become a carer at any time,” Ms Barrie said. “As a caregiver, you need to look after yourself as much as the person you are caring for.”
Sadly, John-Michael passed away at their Plainlands home last year.
Ms Barrie has also cared for her 80-year-old mother, Janice Lynne, since 2015.
National Carers Week, from 16 to 22 October 2022, is a time to recognise and celebrate the 2.65 million Australians who provide care and support to a family member or friend.
Find out more about the West Moreton Health Consumer Network by visiting Get involved | West Moreton Health.