Green gym gives carers the chance to be themselves

Tuesday, 10th April, 2018

A WISH TO SING AND RUN – Carer Ruth Boydell is joining the Green Gym program to look after herself. Photo: Jonathan Carroll

CARERS often become so focused on others they forget to care for themselves.

Just ask Ruth Boydell, a full-time carer for her ex-paramedic husband Dave Hopkins, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2011.

Ruth, 60, is making big changes after she became sick herself. This includes joining a new Green Gym program, run by Conservation Volunteers Australia, in Newcastle. “I dropped the ball looking after myself,” she said.

Last year Ruth suffered a condition called transient global amnesia following a particularly stressful period.

She was struck with stroke-like symptoms and was in a state of semi-awareness she described as a “full dementia”.

“It was a wake-up call. I felt my mortality and it made me look after me.”

Ruth began to think about death differently and trained to become a death doula, someone who brings comfort to the dying and terminally ill.

“At one of the death doula workshops we were asked ‘If you were to die today, what are some of the things you didn’t get to do?’ Mine were to sing and to run.”

She hopes joining the Green Gym will help her get fit enough to run again one day.

“Hopefully I’ll stop being in my head and can get out there and smell the roses, the wildlife and wildflowers.”

The 12-week Newcastle Green Gym pilot began in February 28 at the Glenrock State Conservation Area and focuses on unpaid carers. 

Conservation Volunteers Australia’s volunteer engagement officer Karynne Crump said there was a common misconception that only people receiving carer benefits from Centrelink were carers.

“Carers are people who provide unpaid care and support to family members and friends who have a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, terminal illness, an alcohol or other drug issue or who are frail aged,” Ms Crump said.

“How many grandparents are out there who look after grandkids because the parents aren’t well?”

Participants are guided in group activities including planting trees, bushwalking, removing weeds and collecting seeds during three hour sessions.

Ms Crump said the emphasis is on the health and fitness of the participants, not the conservation project itself.

  • (02) 4961-2358.

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