When Stig Wemyss’ mother passed away, his father Ray struggled to cope.
So Mr Wemyss went over to Ray’s house and cooked up a big bowl of bolognese. He instructed him to put it in plastic containers, freeze it, and then heat it and pour it over pasta when he was hungry.
It was then that he learned his father didn’t know how to make pasta because his wife had always done it.
“Once you spend a lifetime with somebody you fall into little roles that you do for each other on a daily basis, you get used to doing those things,” My Wemyss said.
“And had it been the other way around, mum probably wouldn’t know how to pay those online bills or deal with the hot water service when it broke down, that was dad’s job.”
It was that experience that led him to make a humorous web series about the challenges faced by older Australians, particularly in the case of a partner’s death.
The series My Wife Died and I’m Starving, directed by Mr Wemyss and starring Gil Tucker, was made in partnership with Benetas.
Mr Wemyss worked with Benetas to come up with a different theme for each episode.
“In each episode, there would be something that would inspire an idea that (carers) could do with their clients,” he told Community Care Review.
“Or even a creative idea of how they could work with their clients beyond what they would normally do, with information to inform them how they would do it in a different way.”
Topics include pasta making, using technology and avoiding isolation. One of the episodes talks about home care.
“How do I qualify? Do I qualify? At what level do I qualify for government assistance for a home care package? I think that’s a daunting process for people in their 80s. Where do I start?” he said.
The staff at Benetas constantly update the list of topics for the show to cover, drawing on their work with clients.
To accompany the episodes, Benetas provides further information on the issues covered in each episode.
“Benetas has put it into a website where you can get more information about how to make pasta or how to change your light bulb, so that when you are alone you can say ‘that’s it’s, okay’,” Mr Wemyss said.
“Yes, you’ve lost your lifelong partner, yes things will be different, but lots of people go through it and it’s not as bad as you think, you can get through this.”
Giving back to the sector
Mr Wemyss sees the web series as a way to give back to the aged care sector.
“It’s an industry and an area that’s been scrutinised and it’s been under the pump a little bit. There’s negativity around it and it shouldn’t be,” he said.
“It should be a glorious part of people’s lives, it should be a time to celebrate and find goodness in it and that’s what I want.”
Mr Wemyss would like the web series to become a hub for people to go to, and for it to be used by both the elderly and the young.
“I would love it to be somewhere you can go and feel good that you’re not alone; the darkness around losing a lifetime partner, that doesn’t have to mean the end of your life as well,” Mr Wemyss said.
“There is a way forward, there is a way to make new friends and to still have quality of life.”