Young Carers

Reporter: Karlee Hooper

Most adults couldn't cope with what Dale and Aleisha Rhodes do everyday. Their mother Kym is in a wheelchair -- she can't even feed herself. When their father abandoned them 15 months ago, it meant that overnight these two kids lost their childhood and became permanent carers. "We don't really live a normal life", Dale said.

Forty three year old Kym has the debilitating Motor Neurone disease. When it was diagnosed, doctors told her she had two years to live -- that was five years ago. But each day she relies more and more on her kids. "I couldn't do it without them", Kym said. While other teenage girls are shopping with friends 14-year-old Aleisha helps her mother dress, and even does her hair and make up.

And instead of football, 12-year-old Dale works out with the vacuum cleaner. "If one goes out the other one has to stay home -- that's their rule, to look after me. They're just incredible", Kym said.

Even their nights are not their own, the threesome sleep side by side in the lounge room, just in case. "We're too scared something might happen through the night or something, so we'd rather be near her so we can hear her if she needs anything", Aleisha said."The emotional strain of caring for someone that you love does take its toll on younger people and for many of them their school work starts to suffer", said

Jane Hughes from Care Australia. Jane said 380,000 young Australians are devoting themselves to caring for family or friends, and a third of those, like Dale and Aleisha, are school age.Knowing her children are putting her first -- at all costs -- is just one more thing Kym has to deal with. "I should be the parent and they should be the kids, where our roles have changed -- that really hurts me", Kym said.

"As an ex-teacher part of me is concerned about the amount of school the kids miss, but the other part of me knows that the most important thing now is for their relationship with their mum", said long time friend Bev Brock. Bev will share power of attorney with John, the children's step brother. "When my mum passes away, I'm going to take guardianship of the kids and I wouldn't have it any other way", John said. Even though John is only 19, he said it's something he's looking forward to taking on. The family's commitment is indeed inspiring. "We just do what we can for her, we try our best, because we love her", Aleisha and Dale said.

For more information call the Commonweath Carers Resource Centre on (toll free)

1800 242 636 or visit www.youngcarers.net.au