Two years ago, Elise became the primary carer for her fiancé’s brother Luke, who has Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy.
Since then, Elise and Luke have developed an incredible bond through their love and passion for dance.
'The best thing about being a carer for Luke is watching him succeed and achieve his goals.'
It all started with a Zumba class. 'Luke absolutely loves to dance, it’s how he communicates,' said Elise. When Elise learnt about Luke’s love of dancing, she started taking him to Zumba classes five days a week.
From there, their bond grew and Luke wanted to stay over at her house.
Elise soon noticed a change in Luke, 'He just started to grow. Initially, his speech was very limited and he was overweight, he wasn’t very confident. After a year, he had lost 20 kilos and his confidence just kept growing,' described Elise.
Elise realised that these changes in Luke’s life had an enormous impact on her life too. 'It made me completely come out of my shell – I even became a Zumba instructor!'
Behind the scenes, Elise is a creative soul who loves photography, painting and drawing. One of her biggest personal achievements is completing her HSC certificate through TAFE to help achieve her dream of setting up a business.
Seeing a real lack of spaces in the community for people with disability to connect and communicate through dance, inspired her dream of setting up a dance school. 'I want to help create safe spaces for people with disability to dance freely,' she said.
Sometimes caring for someone else can make it difficult to prioritise your own needs and wellbeing.
For Elise, after a few months she realised that she needed to make some compromises, to work less and restructure aspects of her day-to-day life. 'All of a sudden it hit me, that this is really happening,' she said.
There was a period when Elise felt weighed down and overwhelmed from taking on such a big responsibility. During that time, Elise had to slow down and found great relief from creating a regular routine for herself and for Luke.
Learning about support
The first time Elise realised she was an unpaid carer was when she came across the Carer Gateway website and explored the different services available. Elise enjoys reading the stories of other carers in the ‘real-life stories’ section of the website because they give her a bit of perspective and make her feel less alone.
Elise is excited to see how Carer Gateway can support her and what resources are available for her to stay motivated in caring for Luke. Carer Gateway offers a variety of services that can support carers like Elise, such as online counselling, skills courses and community forums.