Carers and the cared-for

A profile of carers in Australia taken from the ABS website

It's true that some carers don't identify themselves as such. They just happen to provide assistance to someone who needs additional help. Overwhelmingly this care is provided for a family member. 

In 2015 the Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted a survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, and a summary of findings was released recently.

2.7 million Australians provide informal care. Over two-thirds of carers are women.

Caring has a significant (usually positive!) impact on the person who is cared for. It often means they can remain in their own home, participate in and contribute to their community, and enjoy quality of life.

Caring also has a significant impact on government spending. Deloitte Access Economics, recently estimated that carers save government over $1 BILLION every single week. That is to say, if government had to replace the care that informal carers currently undertake unpaid, it would cost $60.3 billion each year.

But caring can have negative impacts on carers. Primary carers have significantly lower workforce participation rates. And subsequently their income is almost half that of their non-caring peers.

Caring is valuable to individuals, to households and to communities. But it comes at a cost. This is why every time you purchase your dinner from Dinner on the Table, we use some of your money to gift dinner to a family living with disability.

We're convinced that having a good dinner, done for you, changes your daily life. And when the challenges are great, and the resources are stretched thin, this might be of even greater benefit.

We all need the support of those closest to us - usually our families, whomever that includes (and however much they might get on our nerves!) At Dinner on the Table, we're committed to the needs of whole households. Together, we can care for the carers and the cared-for.

After all, we all have to eat.

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I am a professional...

Blueberry bagels in the foreground with a child's hand stealing blueberries off the plate

I generally consider myself to be a professional. It's true, that reasonably often this means I need to take a junior recipe tester assistant with me to business meetings. But I always try to maintain a professional, um... air. I brush my hair and my teeth. I dress appropriately.

I don't go to meetings in my pyjamas.

Well, hardly ever.

A few weeks ago I had a meeting with an app developer. We use this app to help us find your house to deliver your dinners. It's fabulous. It has changed my life and saves me loads of time. It means we're running our delivery truck greener too, because we find the most efficient way to do the delivery run, driving as few kilometres as possible.

The developers live in Canada. I do not. When they are eating their dinner, I am eating my breakfast. This causes some difficulty with scheduling a meeting. We did, however, find a time and set the meeting for 5.45AM.

When it comes to tech, I am not the sharpest tool in the shed. But I do know what a phone is. And, what's more, I know how to use one. A phone call was the means by which this meeting was to take place, and so on the appointed morning, I got up early.

I made a cup of tea and sat by my phone. My computer was also open and sat on the table nearby. I waited.

Somewhat shockingly, my computer screen suddenly sprang to life. There, in appropriate professional attire, was the app developer, complete with groovy Canadian accent. I was in appropriate bedtime attire, complete with wild hair and puffy eyes.

In a fit of panic I redirected the computer screen to obscure his view of my pyjamas. It worked. Instead, he had a bird's eye right up my nose.

Yes. I am a professional. Who clearly does not understand the meaning of the words, "phone call".

The over-sharing and the ridiculous...

Legs of a woman in a white skirt, holding a basket of flowers

I assume it's not just me, others too, find themselves in this situation. But there are times in life when you are forced into the most ridiculous conversations. Living with one or more  junior recipe testers under the age of five will mean this is a daily occurrence. But it is made even more problematic when you are forced to have a ridiculous conversation in a very public place.

Now, I realise, I am at high risk of over-sharing here. So if you are prone to embarrassment, please do avert your eyes.

I recently had need to visit the GP. I had no major health outbreak of any description, but I did require a prescription. The prescription was not so unusual, or special. But, without wishing to be too indelicate, it was designed specifically for someone with a female, um, apparatus. It would be of no more use to someone of the opposite gender than a flyscreen on a submarine. And so, with prescription in hand, I dutifully went to the chemist.

The chemist I selected was, most unfortunately, one of those steroidal varieties which make you feel over-stimulated and exhausted as soon as you walk through the doors. The ones with no natural light and soul sapping fluorescent lighting that is only heightened by the fluoro pink and yellow price tickets that scream at you as you walk down over-stuffed aisles.

In every one of these prisms of despair, the prescription counter is right at the back. There is no choice but to squeeze down the narrow aisles and try to remain calm. By the time I reached the counter, my claustrophobic tendencies were in full flight, as I could no longer see the door or the exit. I should say, that I get anxious putting a tight jumper over my head; being unable to find the exit in a veritable Tardis has a similar effect.

I soothed myself with the knowledge that I would be out of there shortly, and handed over my prescription and my medicare card. Turning around, I noted a number of people occupying chairs placed near the pharmacy counter. They looked exceedingly bored. I suspected they had been there for quite some time. I consoled myself that even if I was not going to get out of there as quickly as I hoped, I would manage just fine.

I waited.

Presently, an officious looking person in a pharmacy style coat called my name. Feeling rather smug, I glanced at the poor souls starting to nod off in their chairs and rushed to the counter.

Now, I should clarify: the senior recipe tester and I share a surname. We also share a first initial. His name is distinctly masculine, and would make an unbecoming term for a woman. My name would likewise be ridiculous on a man. I looked at the pharmacist. She was pointing at my medicare card, where mine and the senior recipe testers names were listed. "It says R Golding on the script. Who is this for?"

Surprised at the question, I looked at her blankly.

"Is it for you or Richard?"

For a split second, I was sure she was trying to make the afternoon a little more light-hearted.

She wasn't.

"Um... it's for me."

"It's not for Richard?"

I glanced behind me. Every eye that had been drooping closed was now fully alert, in that, "I'm listening, but trying to look like I'm not listening" kind of way.

I weighed the options. At the risk of becoming even more indelicate, and now with an audience growing both in size and interest, I considered explaining that the senior recipe tester would derive some benefit from the prescription, insofar as it would maintain some rein over the number of junior recipe testers who live in our house...

Pragmatism took over. I was rapidly losing confidence that, as it was seemingly apparent the pharmacist hadn't actually read the script, I would in fact be given the thing I came in for.

"Can you see what is being prescribed?"

 If your week is moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, may I suggest this week's menu?

School holidays and climbing the roof (but not the walls!)

A red and a blue door of adjacent terrace housesSchool holidays are, for me, a break in routine and a chance just to hang out. They're also a time to climb on the roof. I should point out that I didn't include that on my original school holiday plan.

The work-life juggle can become ever more acute when junior recipe testers are not at their regular places of educational attainment. Last week I fielded a call from my brother who needed assistance with his three junior recipe testers as he and my sister-in-law had a work roster crisis. Their juniors are not of educational institutional age... and all of their usual babysitting stand-ins were out.

Depositing one of my juniors at a friend's house, I packed up the other two and headed to the fabulous inner west to spend a relaxing day in a beautiful, petite, attached house. With five junior recipe testers. All boys.

The day, somewhat miraculously, proceeded without incident. That is, apart from the bleeding lip after a nasty collision with a broom handle, but we won't mention that. My sister-in-law arrived home and all was relatively calm. The youngest junior there present was tucked up soundly for his afternoon sleep, and the lip had mercifully stopped bleeding.

We packed our things, said our goodbyes, and all sneaked past the sleeping baby's room: some of us to hop in the car and go home, others of us to wave those departing. As six of us stood on the front doorstep, a powerful gust of wind blew. The front door slammed shut.

My sister-in-law's eyes bulged. "Oh," she said. "Um...," I helpfully added. All was not lost, however. "The back door is open," I said. "I'll go round."

"Except that the only way to the back door from here is over the roof."

"Oh. What about down the side of the house?"

At my house, the sides are about 3 feet from the fence. And you can walk down them. Easily. But this was the fabulous inner west. The sides of the house are either attached to another house, or approximately half an inch from the fence. Even on my thinnest days, there was just no way.

We dragged a wheelie bin as close to the roof as we could and, leaving my sister-in-law with four juniors to monitor, I climbed up. Perching atop the paling fence I managed to hoist myself onto the roof. Walking across the roof, away from the edge was relatively easy. It was the getting down again that caused a few problems.

In the courtyard at the back of the house, a retaining wall stood alongside the fence. When my brother has found need to complete this task (yes, apparently I'm not Robinson Crusoe) he simply lowered himself off the roof onto the retaining wall. "It's not that far to drop" assured my sister-in-law.

How far something is, or how high something is, is entirely a matter of opinion. I sat on the edge with my legs dangling over. I talked calmly to myself. I breathed deeply. I conjured every feline instinct I could muster (cats always land on their feet... even on the skinniest of ledges), but the fence, nor the top of the retaining wall got thicker or less far away. I panicked. In the distance I could hear a baby starting to cry.

I walked back across the roof. My eldest junior looked up, "Mum," he helpfully suggested, "You have to go the other way!"

Quite.

"I can't jump down. It's too high."

There was another way. It involved walking the paling fence, holding (lightly) on to the gutters of the two houses who shared the fence. As I cruised past the neighbour's kitchen window I observed their dishes, clean, and sitting on the draining board.

I was grateful they had not chosen that moment to start the washing up.

An award winning weekend!

Image of Rachel with Peace Mitchell & Katy Garner, AusMumpreneur founders

It has been a big weekend. On Friday night I was honoured to be awarded the Women's Business School Excellence Award at the AusMumpreneur Awards for 2017. It was a night of celebration of the many, many remarkable achievements of entrepreneurial women in Australia. I certainly spent the evening in the company of greatness.

Image of Rachel, Kimberley and Jay with their awards

My huge congratulations to my fellow finalists, and to especially to Kimberley Colquhoun, Handy Communications and Jay McClure, The Invaluables who took second and third place.

Image of Kate & Irish with the Hills Shire Council Locals for Locals business awards

But that wasn't where it ended. Across town, Dinner on the Table received the Hills Shire Council Mayor's commendation Locals for Locals Business Award for community contribution. Kate and Irish, who work in the kitchen cooking your dinners were there to accept this award.

We are just a little beside ourselves with excitement - and are so grateful for this recognition. I am so very proud of the Dinner on the Table team. They pour their hearts and souls into cooking your dinner and are committed to changing the daily lives of all those we cook for.

I certainly wouldn't be without them.

We've launched our own #waronwaste

Image of pumpkin and someone cutting it up in the background

We buy veggies for your dinners from a local vegetable farm. When I first went to the farm to talk to the farmer about this arrangement we gazed out across his fields. "Well," he said to me, "You'll have to give me a couple of days notice of your order."

"Ok," I replied.

"So I can pick 'em."

When the veggies get to our kitchen they have often just been plucked from the ground. We need to wash them, then we trim them, before we chop them up for you. They don't come in plastic bags, they're rarely neatly cubed, and they never have a 'washed and ready for use' sticker on the pack.

But all this chopping and trimming means we fill up our bins with vegetable scraps.

Like many of you, we recently watched the ABC's War on Waste in horror. Compostable waste, put into the bin might actually create a bigger problem than other kinds of garbage. We were dismayed at this, and decided we just couldn't carry on.

The Hills School just down the road from us, in Northmead, caters specially for the educational needs of children and young people with disabilities. They also participate in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. They have the most beautiful productive gardens.  AND they compost. ...We got an idea.

We're really excited to tell you that each week students and staff of The Hills School now visit our kitchen and collect our veggie scraps. The scraps feed the school chickens and their herb and veggie beds. School students participate in the gardening program, learning how to grow, and then cook food.

In the spring, these same veggie beds will provide us with herbs that we'll cook into your dinners (just quietly, we can't wait!) We'll keep you posted!