Standing up for Canberra

The Chronicle: Elder Relationship Service

Last month I spent a week in Melbourne looking after my mother following a uterine cancer diagnosis and radical hysterectomy. I wished I could have stayed for longer, but with an early budget and election on the cards this proved challenging. Mum was grateful that I was able to take off my ‘politician hat’ and put on my ‘daughter hat’ for an entire week. I was grateful for my two sisters who are Melbourne-based and able to take on much of the caring responsibilities in my absence. I’d be lost without them, and so would Mum.

Caring for ageing loved ones is challenging at the best of times. Complex issues related to ageing can bring even the closest of families undone. Far too often as the Member for Canberra I have seen rifts emerge within families over the course of making decisions about care of an ageing relative.

After all, conversations around health, end of life plans, living arrangements and financial issues such as estate planning and inheritances aren’t easy. We tend to put off these difficult conversations for too long – sometimes even until it’s too late.

A new counselling and mediation service is trying to get Canberrans to have these conversations, and have them early.

The Elder Relationship Service, run by Relationships Australia, aims to help support families deal with the complex issues of ageing. The service will run as a pilot for 12 months, and will help families to plan for future medical, health, financial or living arrangements and make decisions that protect the interests, rights and safety of all family members.

Its aim is to prevent and resolve differences in ways that improve relationships.

People can attend the new service on their own, with their partner or extended family. It can help if you’re in the middle of a dispute, or if you’re just planning for the future and wanting to avoid potential conflict. The Elder Relationship Service will be staffed by trained counsellors and mediators with specific skills in elder services. To find out more about the Elder Relationship Service, call Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277.

As the Federal Member for Canberra, I don’t get as many opportunities to visit Melbourne.

But last month, when my mother told me she had been diagnosed with uterine cancer and was due to undergo a radical hysterectomy at a hospital in Melbourne, that’s where I raced.

I couldn’t stay for long. With the prospect of an early budget and an election on the cards, work pulled me away after only one week.

It wasn’t easy to leave Mum’s side as she recovered from the surgery.

But I felt lucky to be leaving her in the capable hands of my two, Melbourne-based sisters. I’d be lost without their tireless and selfless capacity to take on the caring responsibilities in my absence.

Caring for ageing loved ones is often a challenge. Complex issues related to ageing can bring even the closest of families undone. Far too often, when wearing my politician’s hat as Member for Canberra, I see rifts emerge within families as they struggle with the care of an ageing relative.

Conversations around health, end of life plans, living arrangements and financial issues like estate planning and inheritances aren’t always comfortable, but they are important. It’s all too easy to put them off - sometimes even until it’s too late.

The Elder Relationship Service, run by Relationships Australia, aims to help support families deal with the complex issues of ageing. The service will run as a pilot for 12 months, and will help families to plan for future medical, health, financial or living arrangements and make decisions that protect the interests, rights and safety of all family members.

Its aim is to prevent and resolve differences in ways that improve relationships.

People can attend the new service on their own, with their partner or extended family. It can help if you’re in the middle of a dispute, or if you’re just planning for the future and wanting to avoid potential conflict. The Elder Relationship Service will be staffed by trained counsellors and mediators with specific skills in elder services.

To find out more about the Elder Relationship Service, call Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277.