Individual Submission – Rebecca Driver
I am a carer
I am a 42 year old woman who has caring responsibilities for my father and 2 sons. I have only recently become aware of the caring responsibilities that I have and the fact that I am a carer.
My Dad lives with me, and has done for 4 years. He is 67 years old and suffers from severe and debilitating Lymphedema. I have 3 boys, 20, 18 and 8 years. My 2 oldest boys also live with me and have Mental Health issues. My eldest son suffers from depression and anxiety and has previously been suicidal and engaged in self harm. My 18 year old son has been diagnosed with an emerging Psychosis and also suffers from depression and anxiety.
I have experienced severe early childhood trauma and suffer from Complex PTSD. I battle suicidal ideation. I am fighting to beat my demons but am often completely crushed by my own wounds and my very real caring responsibilities.
I work 4 days a week as a Mental Health Recovery Support Worker and travel 2 hours a day for work. I have done a lot of work on my recovery, but life is still not easy.
Dad nearly died 4 years ago from Sepsis(complications related to his Lymphedema)and moved in with myself and my 3 boys as he could no longer look after himself effectively, or maintain his home. Dad is currently in hospital again,and has been for over 3 months due to Septic Shock. Dad spent nearly 4 weeks in a High Dependency Unit. As Dad’s next of kin, I was asked to make decisions about saving my Dad’s life. I was told that Dad may have no quality of life and I was told that I could make a decision to have Dad die peacefully with Morphine Therapy. I advocated and fought for my Dad’s life. He is now recovering and is learning to walk again in a Rehabilitation unit. I Have had an extremely traumatic time watching my Dad nearly die. I travelled 5 hours every 2 days to support him in hospital and also stayed at hospital accommodation on 2 occasions at the worst times when I was warned my Dad would probably die. I used all my annual and sick leave at work and am now left exhausted, overwhelmed, depressed, broken and scared. This is a hard road and I NEED MORE HELP. I worry that I will lose my job if I don’t get on top of my emotional exhaustion.
The carer system is difficult to navigate. Trying to become recognised as a carer by Centrelink is hard, and yet I am a carer. I’m trying to care, work, heal and ‘get somewhere’ in my life. I need to not have to fight to be recognised as a carer. What I need is support in my employment with my caring responsibilities, I need financial assistance, I need respite and time out, I need self-care time which I am currently not getting, I need more support in my home for my Dad, I need more support at home with my kids, and I need time to heal.
I need a system that is easy to negotiate and navigate. I need to be recognised as a carer, without having to wait on hold on a telephone or in lines in Centrelink. I don’t have time for this! I need to be able to prove that I am a legitimate carer without constant suspicion by Centrelink. There is a government culture of being guilty of trying to rort the system before someone is considered innocent and legitimately in need. I need what I do to be validated and recognised honestly and easily.
If I can no longer cope – my family will be part of the system. I believe there will be poorer outcomes for my entire family unit if I do not get the support I need and deserve.