Every day around 2.65 million Australians, 12 per cent of the population, provide unpaid care for someone who needs extra help due to disability, age, mental illness, drug or alcohol addiction or long-term physical illness . People who provide this kind of care deserve to be recognised. This is why The Benevolent Society is a big supporter of National Carers Week, which launches today (10 – 16 of October).

This year’s theme is ‘Millions of Reasons to Care,’ which will raise awareness of the incredible contribution that unpaid carers make to our country. It is an opportunity for all of us to celebrate and thank carers for the amazing job they do, particularly as many don’t see themselves as carers – they are either just children, parents, partners, or friends supporting someone close to them. 

As a Carer Gateway provider, The Benevolent Society would like to take this opportunity to feature and celebrate one of our many fantastic carers, Vito. 

Vito’s Carer Story 

I became a carer to my mother after my father passed away many years ago. Like many other carers, I do find that being a carer is a consuming role where your life becomes highly intertwined with the person you care for. This can be emotionally draining and consuming and is one of the main reasons why carers tend to forget about their own needs and wellbeing in their caring role. Naturally, the needs of the person that you care for come first. 

On the other hand, being a carer can be rewarding in the sense that you are positively contributing to the person in your care and your end goal as a carer is to ensure that their quality of life is enhanced. Through your caring role, relationships and bonds becomes deeper and you experience love and empathy for the person you care for.

The challenges faced by Vito

The challenges I face are varied. In my opinion, I find being a carer can be stressful as it is difficult to find time for myself – personal time becomes very precious which then takes its toll on my wellbeing as I don’t have the time to do the things I need to get done or that are important to me. 
I also find it difficult to separate my personal life from my caring role, which can cause further emotions around feeling isolated and lonely, which can then compound feelings of being overwhelmed and under pressure. 

From an emotional point of view, a carer experiences many complicated feelings which can range from frustration, guilt, exhaustion to even feeling angry at times. 

Caring through COVID-19

COVID-19 has made my caring role more challenging.  The restrictions that were put in place during lockdown have made things difficult as my mother can no longer socialise with her usual networks. This led to emotional and wellbeing issues for her, while for me, I felt overwhelmed as this new way of living meant that she relied more on me for her social outlet, which of course was more demanding on my needs. 

How has Carer Gateway helped you?

Having access to Carer Gateway services has been life changing for me. The counselling services specifically have made an enormous positive effect on my life. I suffered from severe stress because of my caring role and these services have substantially helped me improve my mental health and manage my stress levels better. All of which has allowed me to cope and therefore be a better carer to my mother. 

What advice would you pass on to other carers?

My advice to other carers is to seek out help sooner than later, and not to do this all on your own. 
Never feel that it’s a responsibility that needs to be carried out in silence. When signing up to services like Carer Gateway you get to meet other carers who have similar stories to share, and in that sharing you find great emotional support. Always be honest with yourself about your emotional state rather than ignoring it and be open to knowing when you need assistance.