Turning 81-years-old in September, Penrith’s Christel Fooks has spent her life looking after others, but now struggles to accept the help back in her retirement.
“It’s very hard when you’re totally on your own sometimes. You feel very lost,” Ms Fooks said.
“The last two and a half years were very bad, I lost a husband and I lost a daughter. It’s hard to get over that, but life goes on.”
Following her husband’s death, Ms Fooks was contacted by a social worker that let her know that help was available if she wanted it, changing her life.
In something serendipitous, Ms Fooks chose KinCare as her service provider because she liked the name, at first uneasy of accepting help.
But since beginning with them in 2015, she now sees her carer Michelle as a dear friend.
“I call her my angel because she is more than a carer, she is in every way a good friend,” Ms Fooks said.
“She makes my life very enjoyable. I count the days until she comes back.”
The pair see each other weekly to go on outings together or enjoy quality time at the home Ms Fooks has lived in since way back in 1975.
“The time that she is here, it’s a different life. I have someone to talk to. I can talk to myself but I don’t answer myself back yet, that day will come,” Ms Fooks joked.
“She knows more about me than I know about myself.”
A retired nurse, Ms Fooks remains active knitting beanies for the neonatal ward at Nepean Hospital and blankets for other KinCare clients who are wheelchair bound.
She often feels guilty accepting help, especially after dedicating her whole life to helping others in both her career and her large family of 10 children that now live across the globe.
“I don’t rely on my children too much because I didn’t bring them into the world to look after me,” she said.
“I’m sure they get upset that I don’t ring them and ask for help, but they have their own lives to live.”
Many older Australians experience real fear in becoming a burden, and hold off asking for assistance from family or the community.
This sadly leads to tragic cases of loneliness and isolation, something that KinCare and other aged service providers are trying desperately to prevent.
Jason Howie, CEO of KinCare, believes that direct connection and interaction is essential in helping clients who, like Ms Fooks, can be overwhelmed with feelings of guilt or fear.
“A lot of it has to do with the connections that people make and dealing with social isolation issues,” he said.
“You have a very direct impact on the quality of people’s lives. They feel that very direct connection.”