Dot Schafer with her daughter Tanya Scott and grandchildren Nathan and Alyssa Scott. Dot looks after her daughter and grandchildren, who have intellectual disabilities, 24 hours a day, seven days a week with limited outside help.
Dot Schafer with her daughter Tanya Scott and grandchildren Nathan and Alyssa Scott. Dot looks after her daughter and grandchildren, who have intellectual disabilities, 24 hours a day, seven days a week with limited outside help. Julie-Anne Scott

Unsung heroes care for family

DOT and Les Schafer should be enjoying their retirement but instead these unsung heroes are caring for their intellectually disabled daughter and grandchildren.

Dot and Les have five children and the youngest, Tanya Scott, 35 has intellectual disabilities. Tanya's children Alyssa and Nathan have intellectual disabilities as well and Dot and Les have their hands full looking after all three.

“A typical day for us involves helping Tanya prepare breakfast and getting the kids ready for school before they head off in a taxi,” Dot said.

“The Linking Agency takes Tanya out for three hours every Wednesday for an outing and we are entitled to respite care every three months but we don't take it,” she said.

There are 2.6 million unpaid family carers in Australia. They provide help and support to family members, relatives or friends with a disability, mental illness or disorder, terminal illness, chronic condition, or those who are frail and aged.

Dot and Les will have to look after Tanya and the children all their lives and worry what will become of them after they are gone.

“Tanya has had endless medical problems all her life and has had many operations,” Dot said.

“It is a big job looking after all three of them but it's our job, they are our family.”

“It's very hard because we have them 24/7 unless they go to respite and we don't like to take respite because there are other people who need it more than us.”

As health care increasingly moves away from ‘institutional' settings into the home and community, family carers shoulder greater responsibility for managing complex conditions and providing the emotional and physical support for the person for whom they are caring.



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