We recently sat down and spoke to Leonie, a carer living in WA supporting her uncle with Down Syndrome.
When did you realise you were a carer?
Leonie first got a glimpse of the caring role when she visited her mum who at the time was caring for Leonie’s Uncle Eric who has Down Syndrome. Leonie’s caring role first began when she started helping her mum with weekly tasks such as shopping, appointments, and home maintenance.
Then sadly three years ago, her mum passed away and she made a promise that she would care for her Uncle Eric for as long as she could.
“Mum’s biggest worry was what would happen to her little brother Eric. I promised Mum that I would care for him for as long as I physically could. Really, I was paying it forward as my mum was my aunty who took me in when I was seven after my mum was killed in a car accident.”
After Leonie’s mum had passed away, Eric moved in with Leonie and her husband.
“It was such an overwhelming time in those early months of caring because I was also grieving the loss of my mum.”
Learning what supports were available
“I went to a Carer Expo in the early days and didn’t realise just how much support there is for both the carer and the person being cared for.”
Leonie found not only help for her uncle Eric but also support from Carers WA that would assist her as his carer.
“Uncle Eric is sweet-natured gentleman, who unfortunately grew up not being taught any life skills. For this, he needs 24/7 assistance, so the need for extra support is essential so I don’t burnout.”
How the pandemic affected Leonie
“When the first COVID-19 lockdowns hit, it was really difficult being together 24/7 with no respite, it really took its toll. The silver lining of the situation meant that Eric was able to get more funding, which helped us both.”
“We have support workers that help get him ready every morning which takes the pressure off.”
Accessing supports and services
“I have accessed some very helpful Carers WA workshops such as the Compassion Fatigue and the counselling service.”
“Caring for someone can be hard work, I’m not going to lie, sometimes it can be frustrating, but it’s also very rewarding.”
Advice for those new to the caring role
“Through the help of Carers WA and my own experiences as a carer, I’ve learnt how important it is to care for myself so that I can continue to care for my uncle.”
“I have weekly massages, this is my non-negotiable and I like to have my hobby which is making cold processed soap and candles.”
“I kind of thought by this time in life I’d be starting a new career, well I am in a way, it’s certainly not a financial one, but it is richly rewarding!”
Looking for what free services and supports might be available?
Please call 1800 422 737 or complete this request for call-back and a Carers WA team member will be in touch shortly.