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Elaine Maberly receives inaugural Harold Waldron Carer’s Award

Feb. 02, 2021

Elaine Maberly is a fitting recipient of the inaugural Harold Waldron Carer’s Award, created to recognise a family member or friend touched by Parkinson’s who has made a significant difference to the Parkinson’s community through their voluntary leadership or support of a peer support group leader.

It’s nine years since Elaine’s husband and partner of more than 50 years, Jonathan, passed away.

However, just like the award’s namesake, who continued to lead the Geelong Peer Support Group for many years after his wife passed away, Elaine has remained leader of the Parkinson’s support group in Ballarat.

“I’m still involved because they won’t let me go really – I say someone else should take over, but say they like me where I am!” she said laughing.

Jonathan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1996. An astute consulting physician, he became aware of his own difficulty speaking, writing, and listening to his patients simultaneously. His writing got smaller and his arm stopped swinging by his side.

With their two daughters, the couple migrated from England to a 40 acre property outside of Ballarat in 2001 to be closer to their son, who had settled in the area.

With no Parkinson’s support services in the region, Jonathan travelled to Melbourne to see his neurologist and relied on information and support from Fight Parkinson’s’s health team. He also joined the local Parkinson’s Peer Support Group after their daughters saw it advertised in the local paper.

“My husband was never a joiner of anything, but he wanted to go. He enjoyed being in the group - maybe he relaxed more, because you don’t have to pretend to do or be better than you are because everyone else is in the same boat,” Elaine said.

Jonathan had been with the peer support group for around 18 months before Elaine started attending. She quickly became involved and was an early adapter of exercise for Parkinson’s, driving the introduction of a Parkinson’s exercise class in Ballarat that still runs today.

“Everything I’ve done was a reaction to a need that I knew I could do something about, so I just got on and did it. But my training as a physiotherapist that has been absolutely instrumental,” she said.

When told of the award, Elaine, who is also a long-time volunteer at Sovereign Hill, admits her first reaction was “I don’t know what I’ve done.”

Elaine knows the importance of carers looking after themselves – and recognising when to seek help, whether it is respite or making the decision to move a loved one into full time care. This is where support groups can help.

“It’s a long, hard road and something a lot of people fear is seeing someone who is very handicapped and thinking, I’m going to get there. But one of my big messages is there’s no guarantee you will go down that path.

“There are very many different types and manifestations of Parkinson’s My husband was walking the day he died. There’s no guarantee and nothing anybody tells you is written in stone – you’ve got to go down your own pathway.

“Exploring the best way to do that may be in a group, it may be phoning somebody in the group, or it might be asking to speak to someone on the same sort of pathway you’re on. This is where network from the groups becomes so important - it can reach the joiners and the non-joiners.”

The Harold Waldron Carer’s Award was introduced this year in recognition of the extraordinary dedication of Harold Waldron, leader of the Geelong Peer Support Group from 1981, until he retired in 2019. Harold’s wife Margaret, who had Parkinson’s, passed away in 1999.



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