Meet Rachel Cooper, stay at home mother of five – including two-year-old twins– and carer for her eldest son Henry (14) who has Autism. Rachel is also studying for her Diploma of Business.
Rachel is a woman who has her hands full!
The Caring Journey
Before having Henry, Rachel had a successful career in Human Resources, a career she loved, yet she didn’t question walking away from it all to provide Henry the care he needs.
“There was no choice really. It didn’t bother me that I had to give up my job to look after a child with a disability. Those are the cards I was dealt and the cards I had to play”.
Ever since he was a baby, Rachel had felt that something was not quite right.
“When he went to preschool, I could see how different he was compared to the other kids.”
By the time he started school, Rachel was sure there was something going on, and asked his teacher for help.
“She suggested I look into Asperger’s and Autism. I did some research and low and behold – of the twenty key signs that your child might have Asperger’s (Autism Level 2), Henry hit them all!”
The following year Henry was diagnosed with Autism (Level 2). Henry has also been diagnosed with a major depression/anxiety disorder, and more recently, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
‘When Henry’s mental health is at its worst, he’s at home all the time. His anxiety gets so severe that most of time he can’t physically leave the house, and even leaving his bedroom can be near impossible.’
‘Since being diagnosed with ADHD and being prescribed medication, he is actually attending school a bit more – which is amazing, because we were 24/7 at home. There’s been such a huge turn around in the last two months.”
Rachel understands the importance of self-care.
“To be the best version of me I do like to do one thing just for me every day. Most days it’s something as simple as having a hot coffee and watching the sun rise before the kids are awake. It could be having a hot, uninterrupted shower when they are in bed.”
“I also meditate. It’s taken a lot of years of training my mind but now I make sure I meditate for ten minutes as soon as I wake up each morning and again before I go to bed at night. Since I started meditating, I sleep so much better, and my fitness and my mental health are so much better.”
Rachel first heard about Carer Gateway through an online support group for parents and carers of children with Autism.
“ A mum in the group had mentioned Carer Gateway, and how it had helped her family. I heard this and I thought ‘wow – I’ve never heard of anything like this for carers’”
“I went online, and I read everything on the Carer Gateway website, and I thought ‘you know what – I’m going to do a registration for Carer Gateway.’ So, I called and spoke with a lady from intake who connected me with a Carer Support Planner in Wagga.”
“Carer Gateway has funded a laptop computer to help with my studies. I didn’t have a laptop or any kind of computer and the only access I had to one was when I went to the local library (which is a bit tricky with the kids). I was trying to do my assessments on my phone which was very difficult – I really needed a computer.”
“It’s made such a big difference to my life. I’d definitely recommend Carer Gateway. I’ve already referred a few friends.”
“Watching Henry grow and go from strength to strength.”
“It’s a 24/7 gig with very little time to yourself, so you need to be super organised with routines and take the wins when you can. Caring for an autistic person is also very mentally challenging so keeping on top of my own mental health is essential.”
What Keeps you Going
“My five kids keep me going. I just want to be able to provide them with the best possible life and opportunities and to do that they need their mum to able to keep on going, every single day. My five kids keep me going – they’re my motivation.”
Hopes and Dreams
“To be the best mum I can be, and to get my five kids to adulthood being the happiest and healthiest they can be – and to finish my studies and get a job where I can provide for my family.”
“I look forward to getting back into the HR environment, I know that’s what I’m good at and what I love to do. To be able to get myself back to that point as a professional like I was before – that’s where I want to be in the future. I look forward to trying to be a superstar in my work as well. That’s where I want to go.”
“You can’t pour from an empty cup. Although it seems impossible most days, try and put your own mental, physical, and spiritual health first so you can be the best version of you for yourself and the person you are caring for. Your family and friends will also get the best version of you too. “
If you’re one of Australia’s 2.7 million unpaid carers, you can access practical advice and support by contacting Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737.