Debra's story

4 minute read

Meet Debra

Debra, 55, lives with her husband Brad in Ballarat, Victoria, where she cares for her sister Bernadette, 54, who lives with disability, and her adult daughter, who lives with an eating disorder.

A lifetime of caregiving

Debra has been a carer for as long as she can remember. She started helping to care for her two sisters at a very young age when her mother was undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer. Later she helped care for her grandparents, who were frail due to age.

However, Debra didn’t think of herself as a carer until recently. ‘I didn’t realise I had been living a different life to others, as I started the role of caregiving at a very young age,’ she says.

In 2018, Debra’s sister Bernadette, who had been injured in a serious accident and living in her own home, needed help with cooking, cleaning and trips to medical appointments. Debra juggled full-time work and parental responsibilities for her two children and caring for Bernadette.

In the years that followed, Debra’s daughter also fell seriously ill and Debra became her full-time carer. Her daughter is now unable to walk and is sustained by a feeding tube.

Debra resigned from her job and moved to a position that enabled her to work from home. She loves her work as a self-employed super fund auditor, but in the beginning found the juggle between paid work and being a carer challenging. It was difficult to find time for herself, or for a relationship with her family outside of her caring role. ‘As a carer, you end up not having a normal relationship with the person you care for,’ she says.

Support from Carer Gateway

After her daughter fell ill during the height of the pandemic, Debra was introduced to Carer Gateway – and things started looking up. She received help in the form of tailored support packages, respite services and coaching. ‘Carer Gateway gave me some breathing space,’ she says. Carer Gateway introduced me to the services that helped my sister’s mental health – and my own.’

Debra has been able to make time for herself and work in a profession she has always been passionate about. Her relationships have improved, too. ‘Carer Gateway helped me realise I also have a son, a husband, and myself to take care of,’ she says. ‘These support services helped me get back on track; I can spend time with my sister and daughter as a family member and not just as a carer.’

Advice to other carers

Debra says the first step is understanding what your role is and then being prepared to ask for support. ‘People don’t understand they are carers unless someone tells them,’ she says. ‘But they are the reason Carer Gateway exists. If there is something you want to ask for, go ahead and ask – a service might be available. Always take the hand that’s offered to you.

‘With the help of Carer Gateway, I am no longer angry and alone,’ says Debra. She now has more time for herself, with all the services and supports she needs in place, but she doesn’t take anything for granted.

‘It’s reassuring to know that I can get support from Carer Gateway when I need it most. It’s nice to know that there is someone out there who is concerned for me and my family and can help.’