My partner and I are Carers. By Carers I mean that we provide unpaid physical, medical, emotional, social and spiritual help and support. We've been the main Carers for various family members and friends for over 13 years now, the entire length of our relationship.
For the last few years our Caring role has been central to everything else in our lives as the Elders we currently support have needed increasing amounts of help. The remote and challenging environment of where we (and the Elders) live adds extra elements to our Care work too. The weather conditions in the winter can mean basic needs, (being warm, having enough food, getting medical help if needed), take a lot of extra time, thought and energy. This coupled with the isolation of our homes has meant its impossible to access help in the form of paid carers. Having said that our local District Nursing and Community Rehabilitation (physiotherapy. occupational therapy) teams are excellent and make the long journey here whenever we need them.
So what has this got to do with Permaculture Design?.
Everything. In order to provide good Care for the Elders, manage one of us going out to work full time, run the farm and deal with any unexpected life events/crises, while at the same time looking after our own health and wellbeing, we need a robust and thorough system to achieve this.
Both through the official reports and through personal and professional experience, the evidence shows that unpaid Carers are at a high risk of stress and neglecting their own health needs. The awareness that we can only Care for the Elders here if we are fit and well, is central to aim of having as good a balance of care of ourselves as well as care of others as possible.
To do this we frequently evaluate how our life in all aspects is going. We use a Design Process (usually SADIMET - Survey, Analyse, Decisions, Implement, Maintain, Evaluate, Tweak ) to do this, at least weekly, but more often if things are uncertain and changeable. Spending anything from 10 minutes to a couple of hours, or on some occasions a whole weekend. Working through the process has been invaluable to our lives and to the balance we strive for, in terms of time and inner resources spent promoting the health, dignity and well being of those we Care for and the same for ourselves.
Its been an eventful learning journey to get to this point, but using the different elements of Permaculture Design has helped massively. For anyone else interested in applying the Design process to similar situations either now, or in the future, I can recommend reading Looby Macnamara's book 'People and Permaculture', which focuses on using permaculture to design all aspects of our lives, relationships and society. In addition I have recently set up a Facebook Group 'Designing Our Health, Designing Our Care' which aims to provide a space to
share ideas related to using Permaculture Design to guide and enable health and care in their own lives and the lives of others.