Anthea is a carer for her three children with disabilities, who are seven, 11 and 16. For International Women’s Day, Anthea shared her experiences with us, to help raise awareness about what it’s like to be an unpaid carer.
What do you want people to know about being an unpaid carer?
Being an unpaid carer of three children with disabilities is both very challenging and rewarding. I think that as a woman and more specifically a mum, I took it as natural for myself that I would be the one looking after my children. I had no idea however just how much caring that would entail, how much extra I would have to learn and master
compared to parents who don’t have children with disabilities; it’s required me to be a secretary, manager, advocate and to learn the ins and outs of complicated systems like the NDIS.
Through the COVID19 lockdown and remote schooling, the two younger children struggled more and more as time went on. Meltdowns increased significantly and a lot of days we, our support workers (we are so blessed to now have thanks to NDIS) and our children couldn’t do much more than hold on to get through the day. By the last two weeks, schooling was down to zero at home, the thought of it would start meltdowns and anxiety for the kids. The focus was solely on their mental health.
One night I was lying on my bed, going through emails etc., I heard our 11 year old in the kitchen. I went out, to find her making PANCAKES!! By herself...they were amazing. Such a wonderful moment, for a child who has nearly everything done for her on a daily basis to just spontaneously do something her support workers had been teaching her, those are the moments that make all the therapy, support and effort worthwhile.
What’s one area of change that would make a big difference for you as a carer?
I think the introduction of the NDIS is a wonderful support, when you actually manage to get what is needed for your child. However, being an unpaid carer is extremely stressful and taxing on the body and mind, and we also forfeit paid employment and a career for ourselves. Of course we do this for the ones we love, but this needs to be more acknowledged. There needs to be more support for carers beyond phone counselling or training specific to our children’s disabilities, because let’s face it - that is adding more onto our pile, not assisting with it (although of course very helpful where appropriate).
The extreme toll physically and mentally needs to be acknowledged. Carers are suffering a large range of quite serious health issues, due to the extreme pressures and let’s face it, we are saving the government hundreds upon thousands of dollars by taking on that role as parents rather than leaving it to the state. Also important to note, a vast majority of us are ourselves disabled too. We need support in the home, with our children, support for our relationships with our partners, as these are all but forgotten and we need assistance with our health and well-being to try to reverse the alarming statistics we face as unpaid carers. A lot more support is needed, for those of us who have health issues, disabilities and for those who haven’t yet got to that stage, as without support, they too, may face the same fate.
Why do you provide unpaid care?
I provide unpaid care for my children, because as any mother wants, I want the best for my children. It just happens to take a lot more work to get them to a point where they may not be right up with their peers, but that I hope they will have some independence, confidence, understand the world better, find what they love in life and live a life that is as happy and fulfilling as possible. Above all, I do it for love.