MATES CARE: Three carers who regularly enjoy the chance to just be themselves at Men Care Too events are Keith Mathews, Don Skeen and Sam Perricone.
MATES CARE: Three carers who regularly enjoy the chance to just be themselves at Men Care Too events are Keith Mathews, Don Skeen and Sam Perricone. GREG SMITH @mencareCC

Coast group supports men in caring roles

MEN care too.

It's a message Greg Smith felt so strongly about that two years ago he started a community organisation by that name on the Central Coast.

As a thank you to carers during Carers Week, Men Care Too has partnered with local Men's Sheds and Central Coast Council to run free first-aid courses and a barbecue on October 16 and 17.

While not a senior himself, the majority of Greg's members are over-65, and he said most men found it easier to be involved in hands-on activities rather than just talking about their feelings or needs.

"The first-aid course will be a real focus on practical things that can happen in the home that carers may have to deal with, such as falls, cuts and breaks, heart attack and stroke, so people have a little more confidence that they know what to do if something does happen," Greg said.

"Then the barbecue is just the chance to relax, have some food and enjoy yourself."

There are more than 2.7 million Australian family and friends in caring roles for someone with a disability, mental or chronic health illness, drug and/or alcohol dependency, terminal illness or frail-aged.

Of these carers, 1.2 million are men, particularly, Greg said, men over 65 caring for partners, often with dementia.

Many may not even regard themselves as "carers" as such, but are faced with all the responsibilities, rewards and stresses of a carer.

Greg has been in a caring role for 20 years, 10 years full-time with his mum Lyn who is physically disabled.

"It took me 10 years before I realised I was a carer, that I wasn't just doing what any son would do to help his mum," Greg said.

He felt he didn't fit in anywhere because care support services were all geared towards women.

He encourages services to be more socially, rather than health-model based and be more male-friendly.

Men, in turn, need to be more open about what they are doing and how they feel.

"It's very easy as a carer to become isolated and lonely," Greg said.

As well as other social events, Men Care Too has monthly guest speakers at the Hearts and Minds Barber Emporium in Toukley - a great venue for blokes to relax in.

This month's speaker is Brothers 4 Recovery's Jeff Amatto.

Greg also has a weekly online newsletter with about 500 subscribers as well as a bi-monthly printed version.

He called on the community, if they know someone in a caring role to "reach out and say g'day and strike up a conversation - it can make all the difference if people notice you and can really bring you out of yourself".

The first aid courses and barbecues run at 9am-2pm on Wednesday, October 16 at The Entrance Community Centre, Battley Ave, and Thursday, October 17 at Erina Men's Shed, 6 Carlton Rd, Holgate.

To find out more, go to mencaretoo.org/greg, find them on Facebook or phone 0400 604231.

Don't forget the This is My Brave Australia show, in which Men Care Too is a partner, at the Grove Theatre Wyong on Sunday, October 20.


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