Why we should all care for the work others do for free

USC researcher Dr Bridie Scott Parker, who suffers from MS, needs the care of her family and colleagues to keep herself going.
USC researcher Dr Bridie Scott Parker, who suffers from MS, needs the care of her family and colleagues to keep herself going. Warren Lynam

AUSTRALIA has 2.8 million unpaid carers, delivering around 1.9 billion hours of collective assistance each year and generating a monetarised value of $1 billion a week for their efforts or 3.8% of Gross Domestic product.

During what is Carers Week in Australia to recognise that level of endeavour, University of the Sunshine Coast research fellow and MS sufferer Dr Bridie Scott-Parker has admitted she could not function without the care of those closest to her, her family.

On her best days she navigates her way around campus with a cane. There are others on which she uses a wheel walker, the times only a wheelchair will do and others when she arrives at work to discover she is incapable of getting out of her car.

At her worst she can't drive, cook or even allocate her own medication.

Dr Scott-Parker personifies the condition as a "temperamental bitch" capable of laying her low in the blink of an eye.

But she has battled on continuing to work, play the role of mother she cherishes, teaching students and conducting award-winning research.

"Everyone's got troubles,'' Dr Scott-Parker said. "We tend to get caught up in our own and not recognise it in others.

"Today I could be whingey but tomorrow it will be 'pull your socks up and move on'.

"Everyone has troubles.

"I can't feed the pets, be a mum or wife. Doing up a button, getting a Medicare card out of my purse, or taking my glasses on and off, I can't actually do them.''

It's on those occasions that Team Scott-Parker step up with her 16-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter and her husband delivering the support.

During the Easter when she was hospitalised by her condition her children came to her bedside each day to feed her, make sure she was showered, her hair done and clothes changed.

"They are just wonderful children,'' Dr Scott-Parker said.

"We are a team. I can't do what I do without a team."

That team in her case also includes the people she works with who ensure she is safe on stairs and also that she doesn't have to keep getting up for photocopying or other physical tasks.

It is support she appreciates and which allows her to conserve the amount of energy re she requires to still give the kids a cuddle each night.

"There is no shame in seeking held,'' Dr Scott-Parker said.

"People want to help and are only too pleased to. We sometimes don't want it.

"The more you lose your independence the more you want.

"It comes down to picking your priorities. I'd rather cuddle the kids than walk an extra kilometre.

"I've got a fantastic team at work."

Australian Bureau of Statistics studies have found 304,900 carers were less than 25 years old; 683,700 were aged 25 to 44 years; 1.1 million were aged 45 to 64; and 580,000 were aged 65 years and over.

In 2012 there were 74,900 carers aged less than 15 years of age.

The estimated replacement value of unpaid care provided in 2015 was $60.3 billion.

Topics:  abs dr bridie scott parker gdp ms national carers' week usc volunteers

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