Leanne, 67, cares for her 90-year-old mother Pamela (Pam), who has diabetes and vascular dementia. In 2020, Leanne and her partner John moved south to Doonan, near Noosa Heads on the Sunshine Coast to live with Pam, after it became clear she needed daily support.
Leanne never thought of herself becoming a carer, describing it as something that ‘just happened’.
After Leanne’s father died in 2018, Pam was on her own and needed family support.
'We’d always said we’d come down to Noosa and take care of her,' Leanne said.
Each day, Leanne gives Pam her insulin and other medication. She also helps with Pam’s personal care, dressing, and cooking meals.
'She requires a lot of care for the day-to-day things,' Leanne said. Together, Leanne and Pam enjoy going for walks, sometimes assisted by a wheelchair, or heading to the local swimming pool.
Leanne likes to wind down by gardening – ‘It keeps me out of mischief and it’s become my happy place’ – walking, exploring in the car and reading.
'I have also looked into learning how to canoe,' she said.
A career transition
Leanne, a registered nurse who moved from full-time to part-time work so she could care for Pam, has found the extra time spent with her mother rewarding.
'I think caring for her has really brought us closer,' she said.
However, having been a nurse for more than 40 years, Leanne found it a transition to move to caring for a family member at home.
'It’s hard because I have to force myself not to diagnose her all the time. I’ve been nursing so long some things are just second nature.'
Leanne eventually recognised that she needed help, practically and in support of her own mental health. Carer Gateway was able to connect Leanne with the support she needed.
Pam goes to a respite care centre two days a week, and through Carer Gateway, Leanne has been able to connect with other carers, keep up to date with local activities, and access information related to self-care.
'I try to take one day at a time,' she said.
'If I’m feeling stressed about something, I’ll go to the Carer Gateway website. I’ll always get something new out of it.'
For Leanne, the most valuable function of Carer Gateway is the way it has connected her with people in similar situations to hers.
'Through peer support groups on Carer Gateway I have met up with a couple of other people in my area and gone for coffee. There are one or two other support groups here where you can take the person you care for and enjoy some social time with lovely scones with jam and cream.'
Leanne is also a keen supporter of counselling, one of the many services and supports available via Carer Gateway.
'In my career, I incorporated counselling into my nursing role. I never expected to need it myself. I just said 'right, it’s time - I need to talk to someone. If I don’t, it’s going to impact on my ability to look after my mother'.'
Counselling has helped her take a step back and understand her situation better.
'It’s very important to be able to talk to someone. I really encourage other carers to get in touch with a counsellor and find balance in your role as a carer.'
Leanne’s message to carers
Accessing support made a big difference to Leanne’s life, and helped her immensely in caring for Pam.
'I would’ve liked the opportunity, right at the beginning, to talk to someone who had been through what I was beginning to go through,' she said.
'So if you feel your role is beginning to change, that is when you need to recognise that the word ‘carer’ may be something that is going to apply to you. And get in touch with Carer Gateway.'