Caitlin Wheelahan cares for her elderly parents with the support of Sydney Local Health District
Concord Hospital-based project coordinator Cailtin Wheelahan has vivid memories of her father Paul from when she was growing-up.
“My earliest memories are of him sitting in front of a typewriter at home and hearing the clicking sound of the keys,” she said.
Her father wrote 1500 popular paperback westerns set in the United States - under pseudonyms like Emerson Dodge - in the early 1960s.
Earlier, he created an Australian comic book series featuring an adventure hero called The Panther.
He was a prolific writer, Caitlin says, until dementia began to set-in about eight years ago and he gave it up.
“He only stopped writing when he was in his 80s. It’s sad that he now doesn’t remember that he did all of that work,” she said.
Caitlin found her role in the family changed as her father’s condition worsened and her mother, Margaret, struggled with her mobility after a knee replacement. Caitlin has become her parents’ carer, while maintaining her job coordinating carers’ education and policy in SLHD.
“It just sort of evolved. I’m running most things in terms of their care,” she says adding her brother and his family gladly step-in when needed.
“It’s been intense because it has happened so fast.
“But I’m glad that I’ve had the main role. They have looked after me and it’s my turn to look after them,” she said.
Caitlin regularly took her parents to medical appointments from her home an hour away and later organised for extra help for them for everyday tasks like housework and shopping while they lived at home.
While at times her own life has been put on hold, she says she got a sense of satisfaction from being able to help. Her parents now live in a nursing home in Penrith in Western Sydney.
“I think Dad’s still getting royalties [from his books] in the nursing home,” she said.
Caitlin said her manager knows about her responsibilities as her parents’ carer.
“She has been very supportive of what I have had to do. That support is crucial. Her understanding took a big load off me and I was able to get things done. Without that it would have been difficult.”
There are an estimated 53,000 carers in Sydney Local Health District and there are about 1400 carers in the District’s workforce.
Caitlin hopes other carers, both - District staff and members of the local community - sign-up to join a new online registry designed to support people who care for others.
CHAT - Carers Health and Thoughts - is a new way for the District to share initiatives, resources and experiences with carers in the local area.
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.