KERRI-ANNE KEN­NER­LEY shares her per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence with Wo­man’s Day

Woman’s Day (Australia) - - Health -

My hus­band John was in in­ten­sive care af­ter an ac­ci­dent ren­dered him quad­ri­plegic. He couldn’t speak so in­stead he mouthed, “How hard do you want me to try?” We both cried and I re­minded him more than 30 years ago I said I would fol­low him to Antarc­tica to be with him – and I think this was our Antarc­tica. Two years on, I adore be­ing with my hus­band, though be­ing a carer isn’t a job one might al­ways choose. The def­i­ni­tion is “to watch over” and “be re­spon­si­ble”. Add deep love, af­fec­tion, ex­haus­tion, frus­tra­tion and anger a and it might be closer to a day d in the life of a carer. Re­cen Re­cently I at­tended a Wayne Grad Grady golf event to raise aw aware­ness and money for c car­ers, espe­cially young c car­ers – 400,000 young peo­ple take on this role each year. While many older car­ers (3 mil­lion, in fact) do gladly en­joy l look­ing af­ter a part­ner, el el­derly par­ents or chil­dren with needs, some teenagers don’t have a choice.

I met Sarah, who’s been a full-time carer for her mother since she was 12 years old. Her step­fa­ther left and she had to take on the house­hold, in­clud­ing her sib­lings with spe­cial needs.

She’s 19 now, and has had lit­tle real life or so­cial ac­tiv­ity. Her friends at school never re­ally un­der­stood her sit­u­a­tion.

Some­how, her mother made sure she fin­ished school at 17 but her life has been car­ing. No real choice, just re­spon­si­bil­ity, and she’s ma­ture beyond her years. Through The Car­ers Foun­da­tion she’s at­tended a re­treat, which gives respite with oth­ers her age. It’s a job no child should have thrust upon them, but a job no one else will do.

Some young ones ad­mit they’ve never known hap­pi­ness or joy – no par­ties, fun, dress­ing up or do­ing nor­mal teenage things. Their men­tal health is at risk.

As an adult I know how de­mand­ing the role is, but I’m lucky to have a hus­band I love. And Dig­ger, our golden retriever, is added un­con­di­tional love and tries to help. I find it tragic to imag­ine chil­dren as young as eight, who’ve had to give up their life for their fam­ily… Vol­un­teers with no choice.

Kerri-anne is a full-time carer for her hus­band John, who’s a quad­ri­plegic fol­low­ing a fall in 2016.

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