Everyday millions of Australians provide care for a loved one without realising there is free support to help them cope.

Whether it’s helping a friend with their daily tasks, providing a family member personal care or supporting someone who is frail aged, anybody can be a carer at any time, and at any age.

Bev from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast is one carer who receives support and fulfilment from Wellways Carer Gateway’s services.

“I used to work 50 hours a week in a senior managerial role, but I had to retire early to take care of Mum,” explains Bev.

She admits it has been an adjustment getting used to the change in pace, but it’s what her mum wants and needs.

“Even when Mum came to me, I didn’t know how to step back. I was still running around everywhere. I am still getting over that bit,” she says.

Bev’s 91-year-old mother Margaret started living with Bev three years ago, and before that she had lived with Bev’s sister for nine years.

“Even in those years, I did all the running around and would go visit for days, staying there so my sister could go away. I didn’t consider myself a carer. I just thought of myself as a daughter who was helping out.”

There are 2.65 million carers in Australia, and they make up nearly 11 per cent of the population. Seven out of 10 carers are women and one-third of primary carers provide 40 hours or more of unpaid care per week.

Bev says it wasn’t until a few years after her mother started living with her full-time that she realised she was a carer.

When asked what she does to help her mum, Bev said, ‘I get her meals and pack the dishwasher.’ It wasn’t until she was prompted that Bev recognised she also does all the shopping, laundry, drives her mum to doctors’ appointments, manages the medications and a range of other activities.

‘It’s really strange that even now I forget I am a carer. I just think it’s family,” says Bev.

She started attending peer support groups organised by Wellways Carer Gateway to understand what a carer is and what she might need.

Carer Gateway is a national support service funded by the Australian Government. It provides free support for carers through a network of regional Carer Gateway service providers. Wellways is the chosen provider of Carer Gateway services throughout Queensland and the New South Wales regions of South-West Sydney and Nepean Blue Mountains.

“It was when I started going to meetings that I realised what a carer is. We talk about everything we need as carers with a shared understanding. It’s just so good,” she says.

Could you be a carer too?

If you care for a friend or family member, you can access FREE support services including support groups, counselling and coaching to make your life easier.

Call Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737