Kenny, 14, has been caring for his mother Shelly and older brother RJ for more than two years. Shelly has arthritis, and has mobility issues due to a spinal injury. RJ experiences dizziness and vertigo due to a viral meningitis diagnosis in early 2020.
Kenny’s day-to-day responsibilities include helping to prepare meals, assisting Shelly and RJ with their medication, and providing bathroom care for RJ.
Caring for Shelly and RJ has strengthened Kenny’s bond with them.
'It’s definitely brought us closer as a family. We’ve hung out more than we ever have,' Shelly said.
Being a young carer
During 2021 RJ was unwell and Kenny did a lot of his schoolwork from home so he could help care for his brother.
'If he was having a really bad day, he’d get really strong headaches,' Kenny said.
'I’d stay there and be as quiet as I could while talking to him.'
Kenny sees the ‘good days and the bad’ with his mother, Shelly said. On days when her muscles cramp and her body ‘locks up’, he helps with a massage to alleviate the pain.
Shelly was initially reluctant to reveal her health challenges to her boys or ask them for help.
'I used to get really embarrassed and hide my body so the kids didn’t see these convulsions happening but then it was putting me at risk,' she said.
Eventually she accepted they needed to work together as a family, ‘working with them to show them the right way to help me’.
Caring for Shelly and RJ has occasionally meant Kenny is not able to go to school, or see his friends.
'He is very committed to his caring role and takes it very seriously. I’m very proud of the young man he is, and the man he is becoming.'
Support and community
Kenny first realised he was a carer after his high school chaplain visited their house. After they discussed Kenny’s situation at home, the chaplain put the family in touch with a Carer Gateway service provider.
During the intake interview, Kenny learned he was doing more than just helping the people he loves.
'Carer Gateway has helped me understand what my role is in my family and to plan ahead for any changes that might happen in the future when I’m older,' Kenny said.
Shelly and Kenny often read the real-life stories of other carers on the Carer Gateway website and this has made them both feel less alone.
'It’s opened our eyes to what’s out there – what services are available, support networks and who to reach out to,' Shelly said.
'Reading these stories and exploring the website helped me accept that I am not alone in caring for my family.'
Through Carer Gateway, Kenny attended a leadership camp with other young carers in 2022, and this too gave him reassurance and perspective.
'I’m not so different,' Kenny said.
'I may care for two people in my family but I do the same work as [other young carers] do daily and I have similar aspirations.'
Kenny keeps in contact with the friends he made at the camp, often playing video games with them.
And his dreams for the future? Kenny says he would love to attend university and eventually pursue a career as a professional gamer.
Shelly’s advice to others receiving care
For those in a similar caring situation, Shelly’s advice is: 'Let go! For me, it was letting go of the mummy role, having to admit to myself that I can’t do this myself.
'Trust your child,' she said.
'You’ve got to put a certain degree of trust in them... that they’re going to do right by you.'