Nursing lecturer doing research into lives of caregivers to give them a voice

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Story by Stuff Reporter: Helen Harvey 

There are more than one million people in New Zealand caring for family members who are unwell, saving the country an estimated $16.8 billion per annum.

But, the voices of unpaid caregivers aren’t heard, Laura Durville, a nursing lecturer at Western Institute of Technology Taranaki (Witt), said.

“Caregivers do a really valuable and important job and their well-being is just as important as the people they are caring for.’’

Research has been done recently and published in a report The State of Caring in Aotearoa, which was released in August.

The report focussed on individuals who provided care for family members and said: “Carers provide significant economic value to New Zealand – an estimated $16.8 billion per annum or 5.1% of Gross Domestic Product – as well as priceless social and family value.’’

But Durville said there was a “big gap in the research”.

“I could find no research on people who were paid caregivers and also looked after a family member.’’

So, she is making double caregivers – those who are employed as a paid caregiver and who are also an unpaid caregiver for a family member – the focus of research for her Master’s degree.

“I’m treating it as a pilot study so if it goes well I might be able to get a research grant to make a bigger go of it down the track.’’

And she is hoping her research will give caregivers a voice, she said.

“I was thinking whose voices aren’t we hearing, and I got really interested in caregivers and their health. I feel they work really hard, and their jobs are often really challenging.

“One caregiver I talked to said it was the first time they’d felt listened to in a long time.’’

As a society we don’t value carers and caregivers nearly enough, she said.

“They do such important work. Take care of our grandparents parents. And with the ageing population its only going to increase, so we have to take care of our carers.’’

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Image supplied: Andy Macdonald

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