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The program focussing on health and wellbeing among mothers of children with a disability

The Healthy Mothers Healthy Families program promotes a way of life to empower mothers to make changes in their own personal health and wellbeing.

How many times do we become unwell due to not making our own health and wellbeing a priority?  There is much we can do to help ourselves but we also need greater understanding from the professionals who work with our children, to understand our family’s dynamics.

Associate Professor Helen Bourke-Taylor (Monash Uni) an occupational therapist who has worked with children with disabilities for many years, understands that mothers are usually the parent most knowledgeable in their child’s needs; organising services, dealing with NDIS, providing the most substantial direct care, resulting in daily routines being full and child focused.

The stress and mental load we experience from this routine, is significantly higher than other parents and as a result, the incidence of chronic health conditions are of a higher rate amongst our group.

The Healthy Mothers Healthy Families is an evidenced based program generally held in workshop settings.  Since the free online e-learning package was launched during Covid 19 stage 3 restrictions, over 2000 people have accessed the site with each of the videos of mothers watched over 1000 times.

As of 2021, the program will be made available for health professionals to use when working with mothers. This is a step in the right direction for the understanding and awareness our families need given our dynamics. Professionals in relevant fields can head to www.healthymothers-healthyfamilies.com and register under the “For Professionals” tab.

How Can Occupational Therapists and Health Professionals Better Support Parents?

HMHF is specifically designed for mothers. However, occupational therapists and health professionals can play a part in alleviating parental stress and supporting the health and wellbeing of parents in several ways.

Remain family focused in all interactions by asking:

• What do I need to learn about wellbeing and promoting healthy activities for mothers who prioritise others and have very little time?

• How can I create a therapeutic environment that fosters empathy, understanding and communication between myself and the family when my primary focus is their child?

• What is the best, most effective and least time and resource-consuming option available to this child and

family at this time?

• How can I promote shared responsibility among important people in this child’s life?

• What can I do to direct this parent and the family to find supports and services that will enable health and wellbeing?

Helen recommends the below entry points into the HMHF program, for professionals recommending this program. If you are a mother, check these out also for your own knowledge and wellbeing:

1. Viewing the video stories of six mothers.
These vignettes are inspiring and may motivate mothers. Everyone needs to connect with hope to achieve better health and plan how to get there.

2. Suggesting the ‘little changes’ activity for mothers.
This activity involves setting goals for small changes within the week and asks mothers what they can do more of and what they can do less of this week.

For emotional wellbeing, physical activity and healthy eating.
Videos are available from a counsellor, physiotherapist, and dietitian for ideas.

a. Suggestions include spending time with a supportive friend and avoiding people who may be contributing to stress (emotional wellbeing), sitting less and walking more (physical activity), drinking less coffee and more green tea (healthy eating).

3. Providing access to the Health Promoting Activities Scale.
These self-selected occupations—whether about organising a healthy schedule, being social, active, creative, spiritual or just taking time out—are the keys to better health and wellbeing for all.

4. Directing mothers to view the introduction module to see if any content piques their interest.
There is no hurry. There is no cost. There is no pressure. Sometimes just knowing that a resource is available when the time is right is enough to support mothers. Let mothers know they have complete control over what they read and explore on the site.

To learn more and view the resources visit – https://www.healthymothers-healthyfamilies.com/

*Information in the above article is taken from an article in the Spring issue of OT Connections Magazine https://otaus.com.au/

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