“I think I am coping OK, it’s just the life I’ve always known”

21-year-old Caitlin lives in Liverpool in south-west Sydney with her mum. She is the full-time primary carer for her 60-year-old mother.

‘Mum has rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. She can’t really open things, she struggles to get dressed sometimes, she can’t walk long distances and if she walks around the shops then she feels it the next day when her body aches,” said Caitlin.

Caitlin’s dad died two years ago. He had been sick for nine years and Caitlin and her brother were the carers for both parents.

“He had cirrhosis of the liver post liver transplant, renal failure, gout, diabetes, different kinds of cancer. In the end he just went into complete renal failure and multi organ shutdown. I was 19 when he died.”

Her brother helps out when he can, but he has a full-time job and is married with a child.

“Our average day at the moment is just getting up, giving mum her breakfast and medication, if it’s a fortnight where she has to have her injections I give her an injection for the arthritis then depending on what we have on that day we just sit around or we go outside and I might fix up ger flowers or if there is an appointment, I’ll drive her to the appointment and back, and then make lunch and wash up and start the cleaning, “ she said.

Caitlin hopes to work in childcare and is studying part-time and online when she has time in between caring duties.

She has been associated with Wellways for three years and says they’ve been very helpful with their carer services.

“Wellways are going to help me get the rest of my hours so I can get my Ps. They will get a driving instructor and the cost comes out of my package I get through the Carers Gateway.

“When my father was alive Wellways was going to assist us with getting in someone once a week just to help clean up the house and look after him so we could get out, but we didn’t end up needing that because he died faster than we were expecting,” explained Caitlin.

Caitlin is also a member of the Wellways Youth Advisory Committee with other young carers. This gives her time to share her experience as a young, long-term carer, but it also gives her time away from her caring role. Her aunty or sister-in-law look after her mum while she attends.

Caitlin says she might use the carer assistance counselling and coaching provided through Wellways in the future but doesn’t think she needs it just yet.

Carer Gateway is a national approach to providing reliable carer services, support and advice to unpaid carers.

Services are delivered in-person, online and via phone, and are available free of charge.

Through Carer Gateway service providers such as Wellways can provide:

• carer needs assessment and support planning

• in-person and phone-based counselling

• in-person and online peer support

• Tailored financial packages with a focus on employment, education and transport

• emergency respite care

• online self-guided coaching

• information and advice

• assistance with navigating relevant, local services available to carers through federal, state and local government and non-government providers, including the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), My Aged Care and palliative care.