This week is ‘National Carers Week’ (10-16 Oct)

Carers are people who provide unpaid care and support to family members and friends who have a disability, mental health condition, chronic condition, terminal illness, an alcohol or other drug issue or who are frail aged – anyone at any time can become a carer.

This week we recognise and celebrate the 2.65 million carers in Australia who support others.

Carers change the lives of millions of Australians, helping them live healthier and happier lives – they deserve to be celebrated!

At CCNB, we know one carer, Dorothy (Dot) Waterhouse, who’s inspiring story we’d like to share.

Dot is a Community Champion at CCNB, and runs a bi-weekly technology class for our Belong Club, so we thought we’d ask her a few questions:

So Dot, tell us the story of how you became a carer?

Around 2010 I noticed my husband Chris was not coping so well with life’s stresses.

We had always been partners in everything – together since we were 20 years old (married 50 years next year). But now I had to carefully take on more of the decision-making responsibility.

We didn’t know what was wrong, but over the years we could see the changes in his physical and mental abilities. In 2017 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD). By then he was moving like an old man, sleeping all day, and emotional. He was only 67.

Starting PD medication saw an immediate improvement! I sometimes see a smile again – a great day!

How has it changed your life?

I am now an unofficial nurse, full time housekeeper, maintenance person, financial planner, medical advocate, and still his best friend and lover.

Chris is mobile and active, but I have to help him shower and dress. He needs a special diet which I prepare, as it’s not a ‘trendy’ one. I can’t leave him at home alone as he will make poor decisions that may involve a ladder and a power tool! He acts out his dreams at night with yelling and arms pounding the bed.

Instead of researching IT solutions to support education, I am now an unofficial expert on all medical things related to Chris’s version of PD. Ask me anything about bowel motions! In fact, my cloud storage of pics is full of good and bad motions, and also skin spots – as people with PD are much more prone to melanomas than the general population (50%).

PD is as isolating for sufferers and carers, as COVID has been. Socialising is not easy or relaxing, so it doesn’t happen.

What support do carers need?

Some of the things about being Chris’s carer that are the hardest are:
– lack of sleep
– fear of what will happen to him if I get sick or worse
– no one to talk to that understands what YOU are going through.

These are also what I hear concern the majority of carers in our large Northern Beaches PD support group.

We had started a PD carers group that met bi-monthly but Covid stopped us. We are trying again using ZOOM and this could in fact be easier because we can’t easily leave our person living with Parkinson’s to physically meet up.

When I have spoken to my GP about these worries the solution presented to me is to ‘put Chris in respite care’!

I don’t want or need to have respite FROM CHRIS! We enjoy being together, and Parkinson’s sufferers do really poorly away from their homes and routines.

So, as a carer I would benefit from GPs and medical staff becoming more aware of PD and carer’s need’s – not a quick fix with drugs or a ‘holiday’ from our partner.

How can we get communities to be more supportive of their neighbours who are carers?

We have had a surprising success with this due to COVID! I started a Facebook street group last year, as part of the #Viralkindeness movement, to support the street we live in, as it has many very old residents living by themselves. It now has a life of it’s own with lovely support for everyone of every age, and neighbours getting to know neighbours that they had lived beside for years.

Please share this to celebrate and awareness of carers and the way their support our communities. We also encourage you to share stories of carers you know and the way they contribute to you community.
For more information about supporting and championing care networks, contact us here, or visit