This article was written by Young Carer Ambassador, Anna, for Carers Week 2021.
Let me start by telling you a little about myself.
My name is Anna, I’m 23 years old currently living in a share house and studying a Bachelor of Arts and Masters of International Development Practice at Monash University. I love animals and have two dogs that live with my dad and a cat that lives with my mum.
I started caring for my dad in 2019, but didn’t realise I was a carer until 2020 when he was diagnosed with dementia. For me, my caring role didn’t affect my childhood or time at high school. I dealt with other issues, from having divorced parents both on welfare.
When I realised the gravity of dad’s condition and the care he needed, and would need, I sprang into action. I became a one woman show advocating for dad, learning the aged care system, networking like crazy with all different specialists to understand how I can help. A day after finding out, I had a medical folder labelled and sectioned off ready to go, with a huge to do list of all the tasks I needed to get done for dad.
Within the first month, we had a diagnosis, an Aged Care assessment for a home care package, the house modified with railings, dad had a personal alarm and care workers began coming to the house. All I could think was to do everything I could to make him as comfortable as possible. He also suffers from panic attacks multiple times a day and has major anxiety surrounding his condition.
One of the toughest aspects of my role is empathising. Seeing the pain he’s in and experiencing it with him. Being the strong one even when I feel like crying. Holding dad up when he can’t.
The longer I’ve been in this role, the more I’ve learnt about my own needs. I thought I could power through and be everything for dad. All I could think in the beginning was knowing he’s okay, safe and comfortable, because I could see how frightened he was. However, that’s not realistic and I’m not superhuman. I need to look after me too and live my own life.
In The Young Carer Advocacy Project, I’ve met so many amazing resilient Young Carers with different and similar stories from myself. I’ve noticed many of us have been so caught up advocating for others that we’ve gotten lost in the process. Being part of this initiative allows us to have a voice and space to discuss our needs.
So often when we ask for support, it’s offered by giving more supports to the person we care for to ‘lighten the load’ on us. That isn’t how it works. We are people too with our own set of needs and support systems. Helping my dad doesn’t necessarily directly benefit me, but him. So I’m hoping out of all this more supports can be available for people like myself to be treated as individuals, who are people just like everyone else and need help just like everyone else.