Kellie King’s carer journey would be familiar to most of Victoria’s 703,000-strong army of unpaid carers: for years she couldn’t bring herself to admit, even to herself, that she was actually a carer.
“I didn’t identify as a carer, I wasn’t on a carer payment,” she says.
“I saw myself as a mother, daughter and grandmother. I was just doing what needed to be done.”
Until reaching out to Carer Gateway, Kellie was exhausted caring for her father, who has dementia, her mother, who has chronic heart issues, her daughter, who has an acquired brain injury (due to a stroke), and her grandson, who has autism.
For Kellie, the crunch point came with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic when she realised she just couldn’t do it all anymore.
“Children stopped going out to school so then I had a child at home as well as the other three and trying to carve my time up among all of them was hard.
“Going back to work was something I needed to do for me.”
And for Kellie, who lives in Numurkah near Shepparton, that’s where Carer Gateway came in.
Carer Gateway provides a range of tailored support – including counselling services, respite care financial support, group support, carer-coaching and skills courses – which allowed her to return to work.
She says she knows her way around government systems to find what supports are available. But that is not true for everyone.
“Government systems are complex and Carer Gateway is needed to help people navigate the system and get the help they need.”
“Often becoming a carer is not a conscious decision. In families, someone is forced into a carer position. The loss of income to that household is massive, we see marriage breakdown etc because someone has to step into a carer role.”
What is often not talked about is the ability to choose to no longer continue to be an exhausted carer, Kellie says.
“By accessing the right supports through Carer Gateway, I got the opportunity to choose to step away from fulltime caring, and take a back seat.
“This could not have been achieved without going through a process, supported by the Carer Gateway with information, counselling and support.
“I can continue to care, but in a much more sustainable and effective way, the impact is no longer as great and I finally have time for me,” she says.
Since discovering Carer Gateway, Kellie has gone beyond her role as a carer for her family and now her daughter and mother manage their own support via Carer Gateway. And Kellie is there should they need her.
After resisting the “carer” identity, Kellie now constantly refers people who need help to Carer Gateway.
And her message to carers? “It doesn’t have to be so hard,” she says. “Don’t wait until you are exhausted and broken. Pick up the phone and call Carer Gateway.
- Phone: 1800 422 737, Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm local time
- Web: carergatewaysupport.com.au
Carer Gateway was established in April 2020, just as COVID-19 emerged in Australia.