From growing up as a primary carer to multiple family members from the early age of ten, to becoming a leader in emergency respite care, Narelle’s story is one of great inspiration and unrelenting empathy.
Where it all began
On the day her mum was hospitalised suffering a stroke that would require rehabilitation to regain mobility and speech, Narelle didn’t contemplate that just 24 hours later her father’s cancer would bring his life to an abrupt end.
Narelle, the middle child among seven siblings, stepped in to become the primary carer for her mother and two younger siblings. She played an important role in her mother’s rehabilitation, and provided constant care and support to her brother and sister, both of whom had intellectual disability.
Her innate ability to make people feel secure, heard and loved, irrespective of their health condition or disability, has never faltered. She was married at the age of 18, and instantly became the primary carer to her husband who lived with Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer that attacks the immune system.
From young carer to ‘The Respite Lady of Ipswich’
Narelle’s life experiences gave her the drive to join the carer workforce in 1997, where she helped unpaid carers access support services. 'I wanted to be in a role that was worthwhile and meaningful. My first job was about supporting carers and identifying their individual needs, knowing that not one size fits all,' Narelle said.
'I know from my experience, it was often the smallest gestures and help that made a huge difference. Having someone outside of the family to talk to, someone that would listen and appreciate my experiences and provide helpful advice.'
Narelle soon became a project leader, where she worked with her team to empower carers to advocate for themselves. She took the mystery out of respite care and instead ran tours through aged care facilities, showing carers first-hand where their loved ones could stay in order to give themselves a break.
'I’ve always loved the challenge of my role. I love being able to listen to the carer, understand what might work for them, and then offer a range of options for them to choose from. It’s about presenting options and allowing the carer to make the choice. They know their situation best, so they need to be empowered to be the leader in their decisions.'
Where you’ll find Narelle today
Fast forward to 2021 and you’ll still find Narelle passionately committed to helping carers access the break or support they need. So much so, that she’s commonly referred to as ‘The Respite Lady of Ipswich’.
In her current role as an Emergency Respite Coordinator for Carer Gateway, she works with a team to provide carers with access to respite when they need it, at any time of the day or night. Through Carer Gateway, carers can access emergency respite by calling 1800 422 737 at any time.
Narelle’s message to carers
'I want carers to know not to be afraid to ask for help. We’re not here to judge, we’ll certainly do whatever we can to support you. Call Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737.'