Age at interview: 68
Background: George lives with his partner in an outer metropolitan suburb. He is retired and has two adult children. George was born in Australia and identifies as having an English-German background.
For the last 25 years, George has cared for his adult son who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 17. His son has spent time in mental health units. George and his ex-wife provide ongoing support for their son who currently lives independently.
More about George
George describes caring for his son, aged 42, over the last 25 years as an evolving process.
When his son was 16, George said he developed a 'fixation' with his appearance and entered a 'fantasy world'. Around that time, George's son was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and George and his ex-wife attended OCD support groups with him. A particularly intense incident took place when his son, then aged 17, came home from attending a relative's funeral and 'cut' himself, which prompted George and his wife to seek help for him. This led to their son spending a year in hospital where he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. George described this hospitalisation as the 'worst thing that ever happened' because his son came out a 'different person' like a 'zombie' due to being 'over-medicated'.
Since his son received his diagnosis of schizophrenia, George said life has been a 'constant cycle' of his son being 'well' and 'unwell' in which there has been a 'never-ending sequence' of psychiatrists and psychologists. Recently, George noticed his son seemed sedated and lacked motivation, which made him concerned his son may be 'over-medicated'. After George talked to him about it, George's son agreed during a discussion with his psychiatric nurse and George, to get a reassessment involving a stay in hospital to reduce his medication.
George described how his son's illness placed immense strain on relationships in their family and ultimately caused his relationship with his ex-wife 'to break' because it was just 'too hard'. Now George and his ex-wife share care for their son who lives independently in a house owned by George. For George, developing independence is key to his son's sense of self-worth. This means caring for him, involves an ongoing balancing act between not 'wrapping him in cotton wool' and providing the care he needs. George described how he and his ex-wife try to support their son to live a 'reasonable life' by taking him meals, organising a cleaner for his house, accompanying him to appointments, encouraging him to engage in activities, and being in constant communication with him.
Having something that is yours, George said, is 'a must' for carers. He makes time for himself each day in the very early morning to go to the gym and swim, which he looks forward to. George reflected on his own experience of being a male carer and his observations of other male carers. He believes men face unique challenges as carers because they feel responsible for their loved one's condition and helpless because they are not able 'to fix things'. One way men cope, George said, is by retreating to their job. He thinks there should be a focus on the experiences of different types of carers, especially men and retirees, to provide them the support they need to be more involved in their loved ones' day-to-day care.
George said his aim now is to support his son, who he described as a beautiful person, to 'maximise the life' he can have.