September 11, 2020

"I am a Carer, and I didn't even know it."

A story about me and how I care for my aunty.

I was born in Australia but was raised in a traditional Vietnamese culture where the young and fit, look after our ageing or unwell relatives. In our culture, this is a duty, but also an honour. It is a way of showing our respect and appreciation to those who have looked after us. We accept this role gratefully as a privilege.

In 2008, I received a call on my way home from work, which changed my life forever. It was the hospital telling me that my aunty was very unwell and was in intensive care. Instead of going home, I went straight to the hospital, where my partner was waiting for me. On arrival, we discovered that she was unconscious and her body just simply shut down. The doctors were still investigating her condition.

After a couple of tense days of tests, doctors visits and monitoring, we discovered that her body had rejected her donated kidney. Her body had gone into shock. We learnt that she would be unwell for some time and that life will be different from here on for her, and for me.

In a matter of days, I had become her carer. What does that look like? I would visit her daily, coordinate her medical appointments, translate for her, pick up her medication, take her to appointments, provide social and emotional support, ensure she had a balanced diet, remind her of upcoming events and the list continued.

The term carer is often used to refer to the person who is paid to undertake these duties, and where it is their job or career of choice. But statistics tell us that 1 in 6 Australians are actually carers. The Carer Recognition Act 2010 describes a carer as "an individual who provides personal care, support and assistance to another individual who needs it…"

Many people perform caring duties without support or acknowledgement. They often don't even consider themselves carers because they are doing it out of love.

Are you like me? A carer without even knowing it?

I am proud to be part of an organisation where I can use my experience to find and acknowledge our 'hidden' carers.

Amy Liaw