Liz, shares care of her dad, who has paranoid schizophrenia, with her mum and other family members. Her dad helps out on her brother’s farm in rural NSW, and the family takes time to be together.
‘You shouldn’t be afraid to reach out for help, whether that’s to family or someone outside.’
How did you start to be a carer?
When I was about 10 years old, my dad was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Through my high school years my mum struggled a bit with looking after him by herself, and then when I moved out of home she set up a roster system so that she looked after him during the week and I looked after him on the weekend.
Adelong is a small country town where everyone knows everyone else’s business, but Mum didn’t want to have anyone else know all the ins and outs of his condition and what was going on. She wanted to keep things in the family and have us all help out.
‘…at the moment it works well. But I can see a time in the future that we might need to reach outside the family for help…’
What is happening now?
Dad has good weeks and bad weeks. My parents were on the land, and on good weeks he works on my brother’s farm. He’s better when he does keep his body and mind busy.
But on bad weeks he can’t work, and needs someone there all the time to help him with his emotions and mindset. He can’t deal with complex situations.
The family works together to help and support him, and at the moment it works well. But I can see a time in the future that we might need to reach outside the family for help, especially as mum and dad get older.
What is the hardest thing about being a carer?
I find the hardest thing is walking the line between being the person dad turns to for help, and being his daughter. I need to set boundaries between the two roles.
As family, we are the people that dad always turns to. And that can be emotionally draining. When he has a bad week, it’s exhausting just working through the emotions and trying to keep things on an even keel.
‘…the hardest thing is walking the line between being the person dad turns to for help, and being his daughter.’
What is the best thing about being a carer?
The main reason that Mum wanted us to be involved in Dad’s care is to give us an insight into his life, to understand him and his needs. I think caring has really done that, and helped to grow my relationship with my dad. We’ve chosen to do this as a family and it’s good to be able to help him.
What have you found that helps you?
We always make sure that we take time to come together as a family – not just as part of caring for dad, but just to spend time together and fill each other’s cups. We spend time all together and also one on one, to make sure we keep all the relationships going.
What would you like to tell other carers?
No matter how hard the day seems, the sun will always rise tomorrow. There’s a new start every day. And you shouldn’t be afraid to reach out for help, whether that’s to family or someone outside.