Gladstone carers struggle to afford the basics

IMAGINE having to care for someone who is totally dependent on you, a responsibility that means you are unable to work full-time and therefore struggle to pay for the basic necessities.

More than half of the carers in Gladstone are battling financial pressures, something that Carers Queensland central region team leader Natalie Polkinghorne said was only increasing the stress of their situation.

"We see that very frequently with the carers," she said. "Costs are so significant."

The Queensland carer's body released figures last week that reveal half of the carers in the state have to make do with an annual household income of $40,000 or less; significantly lower than the national average salary of $75,000.

Ms Polkinghorne said many of the carers in Gladstone were looking after aging family members.

"That number just keeps on increasing," she said.

"It only takes one fall, from even a fairly fit person for them to need care and support."

Young parents caring for a child with a disability also make up a large number of carers in Gladstone.

Young carers, including siblings of a child with a disability, are also becoming more recognised.

"Young carers have always been providing support for their own families but they haven't been recognised as needing support themselves," Ms Polkinghorne said.

"Some young carers who don't receive support can end up needing support, especially in their young school years."

The increase in young carers has not gone unnoticed with Carers Queensland to host a series of workshops in Gladstone during the school holidays next year.

HARD ROLE: Being a carer is tough work that not many people understand, but Mareika Holmes does it because she loves her children, including 18-year-old Jakob.
HARD ROLE: Being a carer is tough work that not many people understand, but Mareika Holmes does it because she loves her children, including 18-year-old Jakob. Andrew Morgan

Life of a primary carer is a busy, full-time job

BEING a carer is just like having a job, but Gladstone carer Mareika Holmes said that was something many people did not understand.

She cares for her 18-year-old son Jakob, who has a mild intellectual impairment and autism.

She said carers suffered financially and it added stress to an already stressful situation.

Not only do they have to fork out and pay for everyday basics, but she said there were also extra expenses that came with caring for a person, such as paying for a carer if she had errands to run.

"Our mental health suffers," she said.

Ms Holmes said lack of freedom often came with being the primary carer.

"If I was to go away for a weekend, just to go away for two days, I have to do a lot of planning.

"I have to plan his full-time care, his medication, his roster, his activities ... and in some cases I have to train someone."

Being a carer has also taught her valuable life lessons.

"You don't sweat the small stuff. There are things that are important, and there are things that are not important," she said.

Ms Holmes's friend, Melanie Carlyon, has been in a similar situation.

When she was a mum with two young children, she also cared for her husband, who suffered a brain injury after being involved in an accident.

She cared for him for seven-and-a-half years. Her children were one and four years old.

"I had one in nappies and a husband who couldn't feed himself or go to the toilet," she said.

Ms Carlyon said being in a regional area was tough.

"There is almost no support," she said.

CARERS

  • Survey found almost half of carers struggle to afford everyday basics
  • Their household survives on $40,000 or less a year
  • There are about 500,000 unpaid carers in Queensland
  • Last week was Carers Week and Poverty Week


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