Heather Steadman left the fast-paced life of Auckland and moved rurally, settling her family on a property just outside a small town called Helensville.
Heather, 56, spent most of her career in various caring roles – including social work and childcare – and noticed that accessing local carers in a rural community had its challenges. After just a few months of rural life, she has seen first-hand how these areas are struggling to find local carers for older people.
Too often she’s heard that an older person in her community has had an agency carer drive for over an hour away. Heather doesn’t want to see the health dollar “gobbled up with travel expenses”, and is eager to see more carers head out to rural areas.
In March, Heather joined Mycare – New Zealand’s largest community of online support workers which is shifting the country back to a community-based model of care and support – and now spends quality time helping an older woman who lives down the road.
“I help her for a few hours every fortnight with her house cleaning, but it’s much more than that,” Heather said.
“Sometimes an older person wants to have someone around to talk to, and that’s what we do. If she’s having a tough time, I’ll sit and have a cuppa with her,” she said.
“Mycare is about creating long term connections that will endure far beyond the caring role.”
Everyone says it's best to age at home, but there's no infrastructure to support this. A big corporate structure is not required to ensure our parents and grandparents are taken care of, all that is needed is for the technology in our pockets to be utilized.
"How does a young carer wanting to help an older person with their gardening connect? Mycare is reinventing social infrastructure enabling these people to make connections."
Heather has since become a Mycare ambassador and is pushing for more people to embrace the platform in rural areas.
“It’s about creating a supportive community where you know who the person is coming into your home, and you’re also engaging someone looking for work in the community,” she said.
“A big reason why people live rurally is for the sense of community, and we need make sure there’s support in place for those living outside of the cities, especially our older generations.
“Mycare is the perfect answer to supporting rural communities and we need to spread the word so we can have more Mycare workers in rural areas.
“People who need an extra hand or want some company need to know that a neighbour, or someone in your community can be there for you.”