The holidays are a time for celebrating. A time to take time out, relax and revive. Food, fun, family, friends and festivities make the holidays a time that people look forward to throughout the year.
However, for people who need support for living with disability, chronic illness or other significant care needs, the holidays can be a time of challenge. Many support providers and professionals will take time off over the holidays to relax and recharge themselves. While care professionals absolutely deserve to have time to relax with family and celebrate the holidays themselves, this can make the holidays a particularly hard period to get the care supports you need.
Making matters worse, holidays have a habit of correlating with a spike in health problems. This common holiday spike in demand for care not only impacts people with existing care needs, but also care professionals. Unfortunately this time of high demand for care can also see care professionals themselves needing to cancel due to illness and misadventure.
All this means it’s important to have a plan for managing your care needs throughout the holiday period. In this article we highlight some options to help you successfully navigate your care needs through the holidays.
The first port of call is to check with your care providers to see what holiday arrangements they have made to support clients over the break. If you have a great care provider, they will be committed to your care. They are also likely to have multiple clients who are in a similar situation to you.
With this in mind, they may have after hours and holiday coverage in place. The big advantage of using a holiday coverage service organised by your existing care provider is the existing working relationship between your care provider and their holiday coverage service. This means they will have systems set up to share information and ensure good hand over which can make a huge difference in the quality of care that you receive.
While not every care provider will have holiday arrangements in place, it is a good place to start. If you have a key care provider who doesn’t have a holiday plan in place, this can also be a good opportunity to start a conversation about how you can manage this time together and help your key care provider connect with your holiday supports to help you get the best possible care all year round.
If you have consumables that you rely on, it can be a good idea to stock up ahead of the holidays if your budget allows. Your regular provider may be closed for a number of days in addition to the public holidays around this time or if you purchase your goods online or over the phone, packages can be delayed due to the increased volume of mail that is handled during this period.
As above, it can be a good idea to check with your providers of key products and consumables about their plans to manage delivery times and supplies during this period. Of course, the most reliable supply is what you have in your cupboard, so where shelf life, shelf space and finances permit, it can be a good idea to consider making sure you have enough of the products you need to get you through the holidays.
We all know that holidays can be a tough time to find care. That’s why it’s a good idea to plan your fallback options in advance. Even when your care provider offers a holiday cover to support you during this time, things can sometimes happen, like cover staff get sick or are otherwise unable to come.
If you have a care provider that is offering service during the holidays, it is a good idea to discuss with them what their fallback plan is if a staff member is suddenly unavailable. Will the provider guarantee to source another staff member? How will they ensure you receive the care or supports you need in the event that things don’t go to plan?
It can also be worth considering a dual sourcing strategy. This is where you get your supports supplied from 2 care providers to ensure you have a trusted, experienced second option in case of a problem where your current provider can’t deliver the supports you need. While it can be difficult to manage the coordination and collaboration of two or more care providers, this method helps limit risk. This approach is commonly used in industry for critical business purchases to avoid major disruption if a supplier of a product or service is unable to deliver for any reason.
In the last few years a number of on-demand care services have sprung up to help bridge the gap between traditional care providers and the 24hr health and hospital system. These can range from telephone services through to in-home on demand care.
For example, Healthdirect offers a 24hour non-urgent care advice service. The phone line is staffed by registered nurses who can provide you with expert health advice. It is free and you can get advice if you or a member of your family are feeling ill and are unsure what to do, or for health information on a particular condition.
You can reach Healthdirect for free, 24hours a day, 7 days a week on 1800 022 222.
If you require a GP but are unable to connect with your regular doctor or your doctor’s after hours service, you may consider reaching out to the National Home Doctors Service. NHDS offers after hours care from doctors who will come to your home. You can request a doctor through the NHDS app or by calling 13 7425 (13 SICK).
While the name may imply otherwise, National Home Doctors Service is not quite ‘National’. Currently they offer service in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth (Sorry Darwin and Hobart) and outside the capital cities, they are also servicing Bendigo, Shepparton, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Launceston and the NSW Central Coast.
Best of all, they bulk bill!
With the rollout of the NDIS, a number of support worker marketplaces have also emerged that can help you find and manage your own support workers. While not to the ‘on-demand’ level of the NHDS delivering doctors to your door, getting comfortable with the technology of one of these platforms can help give you more control in organising an alternative if your normal support worker arrangements fall through.
Potentially the best known of these platforms is Hireup, which is now compatible with all forms of NDIS funding, and allows you to gain access to in-home personal care, transport, therapy support, help around the house, personal care and more. Having a support worker platform like hireup set up as part of your care team can mean that if you find yourself in need at short notice you are in a better position to organise your own alternative.
Depending on your situation and if you are comfortable with doing so, you may consider letting people know about your situation on social media. There are a number of NDIS groups you can join on facebook (including this one) where you can reach out for support and advice from a community who may be able to relate to the problem you are facing.
It may not work for all challenges, but if say you have run out of a consumable, you may be able to find a kind person out there who could spot you some and you could then restock for them when the stores reopen.
If you aren’t comfortable with Facebook in light of some of the privacy concerns that have come out this year, we also have our own forum here where you can post your questions and get replies to help you solve problems.
The holidays can also be a particularly hard time on your mental health. While it may not be possible to see your usual mental health professional during this time if they have taken the break, there are a number of FREE national and State services operating 24hours a day, 7 days a week that are here to support you should you find yourself facing a mental health crisis after hours or during the holidays.
If you find yourself in need of mental health support during the holidays (or any time), please be sure to reach out to a service such as these for support.
Just like other providers, hospitals and emergency care services can find it difficult to staff full service during the holiday period. This is why it is important to be aware of the range of alternative primary care options available to help you get fast, effective care during the holidays and after hours.
However, in the case of an emergency you need emergency care. In the event you find yourself needing emergency care, you can call ‘000’ for help to come to you or you can go to the emergency department (sometimes called the ED or the Emergency Room – ER) of your nearest hospital. In Australia, we are lucky to have thousands of hard working professionals who give up these holidays to ensure we have access to emergency care.
These are some of our tips for ensuring that you can continue to get access to the care and supports you need throughout the holiday period. Let us know, what advice do you have for managing your care and support needs over the holidays?
To all of you in our community of CareNavigators, we wish you a safe and happy holidays.