|Tuesday, 28 June 2005 10:00|
For some of us the role of a working carer is a gradual, planned undertaking. For others, it can be so unexpected you feel like Alice in Wonderland as you try and navigate your way through a maze of services in a world turned upside down. Either way, caring adds another ball to what is a daily juggling routine of work, family and life commitments.Caring can be a satisfying and rewarding experience. From first hand experience I know it can also be frustrating, consuming and demanding.
As a child I was in awe of my grandmother Dorothea or Dot as she was known to the adults. She could quell a rumble of grandkids as equally as she could their elders with just a raise of a single eyebrow. As I grew so did my admiration for her. She kept me safe, she gave me warmth and she loved unconditionally. For a tiny woman she threw an enormous shadow.
Without words being spoken, it was always understood by the family that ‘when the time came’, Dot would come and live with me and mine. For several years my family basked in the glow of her good humour, great company and even better, her cooking – a vast improvement over my burnt offerings plated up in between shift work.
Dot was a mentally strong and fiercely independent woman so we were all caught off guard when a minor medical hiccup saw her take to her bed. Years earlier Dot had been diagnosed with late onset diabetes. She was careful in managing her medication and had even managed to trim down considerably, in spite of her continuing sweet tooth. But an undiagnosed peptic ulcer robbed her of her appetite and she took to snacking on the wrong foods. The results were devastating.
Unable to stabilise her insulin levels and despite the discomfort of the ulcer she kept quiet, not wanting to be a burden, not wanting to make demands on an already stressed working carer/ wife/ young mum and granddaughter. Overnight the diabetes ravaged her eyesight. There could have been no crueller blow. Next to my Pop, Dot’s other two loves were reading and driving and now both were denied her.
No matter how much I rallied and remonstrated with her, Dot was resigned. As much as she loved us all it wasn’t enough. She gave up on living. She died several weeks later in hospital, ironically not as a result of the diabetes but from the ulcer the doctors swore had been cured. My anger at the futility of her death, guilt over my failure to challenge the doctors over her care and resentment that she chose to leave me knew no bounds. How could she do this to me?
Nearly a decade later my angst has tempered somewhat, maybe… The good memories now outweigh the bad. But it was an opportunity presented by NSW Health’s Carers Program in funding this website that has allowed me to make something of this experience – the joys, the stresses, the challenges and the achievements.
It is all these shades of caring that you will see represented here in the themes and content of the Working Carers Support Gateway website.
The Gateway project is truly a team effort. There are four of us on board. Tania Lienert is the Coordinator, Therese Schier is the Web Editor and Vicki Wood is the Partnership Development Officer. Therese, Tania and I are also journalists. We are ably assisted by the staff of our auspice agency DAISI with Terry Humphries, the Senior Information officer and a working carer, Anthony Hudson, Administration Officer and Matt Wood, our Finance Officer. We are assisted in our activities by an Advisory Panel made up of working carers and sector service providers and a Reference Group of interested contributors from throughout the state.
Each week we will bring you a range of stories and articles on regular themes that matter: work, money, life and other ‘catch-all’ issues. But, you won’t have to wait seven days for a new instalment. You can access our discussion forum 24/7 to post a comment or a query. And you’ll get to hear more about the adventures of Dona and Dot. That’s her in the caricature perched on my shoulder – close enough still to whisper advice or verbally smack me around the ears when needed.
I hope as a working carer you can take away something positive from the articles and hope you will also consider contributing to its pages. Let us know what you want and help us to challenge society’s preconceptions of working carers.
We look forward to catching up with you again next week.
Dona L.Graham Editor-in-Chief
Working Carers Support Gateway: online news, information and support for working carers