Nancy is a Registered Nurse, a single mother of two, and an unpaid carer to her daughter Vanessa who has Cerebral Palsy.
Embracing the change
Vanessa received her diagnosis when she was one-and-a-half years old and wasn’t meeting milestones expected of babies at that age.
After moving to Australia from Zimbabwe, Nancy attempted to get better therapies and support for Vanessa. Her difficulties in writing, talking and fine motor skills made connecting to new kids hard for Vanessa, and that took a toll on Nancy.
'Teachers in regular schools weren’t used to working with people with severe disabilities, and people had a hard time understanding our culture,' said Nancy. 'Vanessa has always been an intelligent girl but the teachers didn’t hear her, they wouldn’t take the time to understand her accent and she wasn’t getting the support she needed.'
Nancy soon added advocate and therapist to her list of responsibilities. She taught Vanessa how to use a knife and fork, write and communicate more clearly, and made sure she got the therapies and special school placements she needed to thrive.
A carer and mum
'I feel like I’ve been able to be even more involved in Vanessa’s life as her carer than I would’ve been as just her mum,' shared Nancy. 'When you’re a carer, your role is to make sure the person you are caring for develops - reinforcing good habits, teaching them new skills, making sure they’re well-groomed, and advocating for and representing them wherever they go.'
Work that’s worth it
Nancy feels most rewarded seeing Vanessa come to terms with her disability and work to become more independent.
'I’ve come to understand her as a person, where she’s coming from and how she perceives things. She is very compassionate and understands other people’s feelings very well,' said Nancy. 'I’m proud to have raised two go-getters who don’t let things hold them back.'
Advice to others
Nancy urges all parents who are also carers to their children to accept the situation. 'Acceptance is so important because the sooner you accept your situation, the sooner you can take action to help your kids and yourself.'
'Listen to your child,' advises Nancy. Learn to speak their language, as their way of communicating might not always be verbal. Know when they don’t want something or when they’re irritated. When you know them better, you understand what’s going on and can give them the help they need.'
Supported by Carer Gateway
Nancy is starting to make time for herself. 'Everything that I’ve ever done has always been for my kids and now they’re pushing me to do things for myself,' said Nancy.
It’s important to have support when you’re caring for someone, and carers manage better when they know they’re not alone. Through Carer Gateway, Nancy is exploring counselling, community forums and family support services. 'My life was either focused on my daughters or my work, now I’m making time for myself and Carer Gateway is helping me with that. Counselling services and help around the house are easily available. This all helps lighten the load,' she adds.