Age at interview: 67
Background: Dianne is 67 years old, retired and lives with her husband in an outer metropolitan suburb. They have six adult children aged from 40 to 49. Dianne identifies as Anglo-Australian.
Dianne and her husband have cared for Dianne's 47 year old son from her first marriage since he began hearing voices when he was 17. Dianne's son has received compulsory treatment many times over the years and has been placed on Community Treatment Orders (CTOs). He currently lives in supported accommodation and keeps in regular contact with Dianne and her husband.
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More about Dianne
Dianne said she and her husband 'really enjoy' having 'a big family' of six children and ten grandchildren. However, there have been times over the past 30 years, she said, when she has felt 'torn' between caring for her son, aged 47, and maintaining her relationships with the rest of their family.
Retired, Dianne is 67 and lives with her husband. When her son was 17, Dianne recalled, he kept saying, 'What did you say', when nobody had said anything. She realised later he was 'starting to hear voices' at that stage. This prompted them to take him to their GP who referred him to a psychiatrist. He diagnosed Dianne's son, aged 18, with schizophrenia. Since then, her son has received compulsory treatment in hospital numerous times and has been on 'lots of' CTOs.
For many years, Dianne and her husband attended appointments at her son's request. She described one psychiatrist as 'excellent' because she was able to 'get in touch' with him when needed. At times, Dianne recalled, it was difficult to find out information about her son when he was discharged from hospital. Dianne believed parents should be told if their adult child is in hospital so parents can know they are 'alive'. Recently, Dianne and her husband stopped going to her son's appointments because they believe he needs to learn to rely on them less.
Finding accommodation for her son, navigating family dynamics and looking after their own health are some key challenges Dianne and her husband have faced. After receiving his diagnosis, Dianne's son initially lived with their family but his brothers and sisters had trouble living with him because they found his behaviour 'erratic' and occasionally a 'bit scary'. Consequently, her older children started to leave home early, which Dianne described as 'difficult'. Since then he has lived in many different types of accommodation and, most recently, he was placed in supported accommodation, which his pension pays for. Dianne's son keeps in contact with one of his siblings but does not attend many family events. For some years, Dianne said, she has taken antidepressants for depression, which she attributed to the impact schizophrenia can have on other people.
Being long-term members of a carers support group has been for Dianne and her husband, an important source of support. She described it as a venue in which carers can talk with and support others who are going through similar experiences to themselves. Their group also shares information, and provides access to counselling, courses and respite care.
Over the years, Dianne said she has learned to care for her son by listening and exercising her judgment in response to situations as they arise. She also puts into practice the following piece of advice she learnt from her carer group: 'They used to stress that you come first, you have to look after yourself, you really do'.