Age at interview: 55
Background: Born in New Zealand, Rowan lives in a metropolitan suburb with his wife for whom he provides fulltime care. They have five children.
Rowan became a carer when his wife was first diagnosed with treatment resistant schizophrenia and major depression six years ago. She has been hospitalised as a compulsory patient three times. However, Rowan explained the third compulsory admission occurred when his wife suffered an impacted bowel, which was misdiagnosed as an overdose of medication.
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More about Rowan
Rowan said he feels he has 'a different wife now' to the woman he married 20 years ago.
A former call centre technical trainer, Rowan, aged 55, lives with his wife, aged 44. Their five adult children live interstate. When Rowan's wife was a child, she was diagnosed with epilepsy, which Rowan said was controlled quite well with medications. Rowan first noticed a change in his wife six years ago when, he said, she stopped taking any pride in how she looked and lost her normal 'bubbliness'. When one of their daughters came to stay, she told Rowan she thought there was something 'really wrong with Mum'. Following their daughter's advice, Rowan took his wife to a GP who diagnosed her with depression.
After his wife started taking antidepressants prescribed by her doctor, Rowan said he thought she showed signs of being 'paranoid'. Then one day he returned home from work to find she had taken a 'major overdose' of her epilepsy medication. She was taken to a local hospital, and transferred three days later to a psychiatric unit, which he described as a 'pretty scary' experience. He said he felt like a 'speck on the wall' during the first meeting between his wife and a psychiatrist because he did not think his answers to the psychiatrist's questions 'mattered' to the psychiatrist. The next day, after Rowan's wife told him she was hearing voices, he advised her to bring it up with the psychiatrist who subsequently diagnosed Rowan's wife, then aged 38, with schizophrenia. In the three years following his wife's initial hospitalisation, she was hospitalised twice. For the past three years Rowan's wife has not been hospitalised. He has cared for his wife at home which he said he feels happy about.
After Rowan's GP recommended he take three months off from work because of the toll that caregiving whilst working at the same time was taking on his health, Rowan said their finances 'took a tumble'. In the end, he said he had to give up work. Rowan said while he missed his job, leaving it felt like the 'best thing' for his wife and himself. When his wife was first diagnosed with schizophrenia, Rowan explained, he had 'zero understanding' of the condition. He said he was not told then what resources were available for carers. As a result, Rowan said, he spent about three years 'floundering' on his own. He believes carers should be well informed early on about what to expect. Rowan encouraged other carers to try and 'build rapport' with psychiatrists. He described how one psychiatrist fully involved him in his wife's care after he demonstrated to the psychiatrist that he was 'caring' and 'interested'.
Rowan said he feels he is slowly getting his wife back but he thinks he will 'never get her all the way back'. Now he focuses on seeing how good he and his wife can make each day.