Cheryl is a Service Coordinator for our Western Beaches Area Team. She also is a carer for her dad, Murray, and her step-mum, Janet (pictured).
This is her story:
I’m an on-again/off-again carer. The past few months have definitely been on-again as my Dad was having radiation therapy and my Mum injured her arm. They live about an hour away from me, so when COVID hit at the same time as Dad’s radiation treatment began, I had them both move in with me and my husband, Carl. That way we could support Dad getting to hospital and ensure that Mum had her dressings changed regularly.
For a long time, my folks didn’t want to be ‘cared’ for and I had to respect their wishes. However, when things went downhill quickly for Dad, they asked for help and we sprung to action. Carl was able to take two weeks off work at the beginning to help and to keep them COVID safe which was such a blessing – he’s a gem. It was quite full-on physically and emotionally and was time consuming. Even if I only had to care for Dad, I ended up caring for two people as Mum and Dad are intertwined, love each other greatly and are each other’s support mechanism. They couldn’t be separated during this time.
Luckily, working in the sector means that I know how to navigate the system and understand the different types of funding and support options available. Some of the information out there is difficult to understand and it has made me consider the role of Coordinators. I really believe that it’s more than just coordinating supports we are paid for. Coordinators are also there to advocate for the people we support and get them connected to the different services available. We also have a duty of care to keep our customers safe and connected in their community.
As a carer, it was quite full-on for me to accept help, having people providing care to my parents and doing some cleaning around the home – especially as the support workers are part of the Western Beaches teams I work with. For someone who is usually coordinating support for others, it was a vulnerable place to be. However, I’m really grateful for the support and I feel like I’m only just coming up for air now.
My advice for other carers is:
- Try to see the funny side of things. The weight of the responsibility can feel really draining. I found making jokes helped. My Dad is deaf, so Mum and I have a running joke about how much I can swear around him without him knowing!
- Communication is key – with family and with others. Talk about the issues and what’s going on so you don’t feel like you have to hold all the information.
- Let go and place trust in others who are there to provide support.
- Ask for help! There’s such a range of support services out there.
You are a carer if you are looking after a family member or friend with disability, a medical condition, mental illness or who is frail due to age. You can connect to Carers WA who offer a range of support services including:
Carer Gateway Service: a free Australian Government initiative that provides a mix of online and in-person supports, services and advice for family carers including:
- In-person peer support – a free, facilitated, four-part training peer support program.
- In-person and phone counselling – available through Carers WA and HelpingMinds’ team of qualified and accredited counsellors.
- Carer Directed Support – financial support to provide carers greater control of the services they engage and how and when they are utilised.
- Respite Care – available in the form of emergency respite support and planned respite.