Work + Care: Carer Stories

FingerFamilyDecisions about staying in the workforce, or returning to work, need careful thought. Two carers at different life stages share their experiences.

After almost 30 years of caring full-time for her special needs daughter, nine of these on her own, Judy Sibbe found it very difficult to find employment after her daughter moved to supported living.

“I was 52 by then and my confidence to re-enter the workforce was shattered. But you have to believe in yourself.”

Judy applied for over 100 jobs before landing her present role as a resource coordinator for a public health service.

Support for Judy’s fragile self-esteem came from a correspondence course through the Open Polytechnic of NZ,which provided inspiring course material and a personal life coach who regularly visited Judy.

Judy also won a grant from the NZ Federation of Graduate Women designed to help women re-enter the workforce. It meant she could complete a librarian’s course, which made all the difference to her skill base.

“I received a training incentive allowance from Work and Income to study for a diploma in Information and Library Studies. The grant I received enabled me to do a short course in customer service at the local polytech.”

“The best day of my life was when I could go into Work and Income and tell them I had a job. It was such a good feeling.”

“I set myself some goals when I was doing studying, things like a digital camera, a holiday. They seemed so out of reach then, but after several years in my job I have achieved most of them.”

Lorraine Gray (66) is beginning to feel isolated from her career and colleagues after several years of caring for her elderly mum. Lorraine sold her house and left a successful career in tertiary teaching in New Plymouth before taking her mother out of a rest home and moving with her to the family home in Wellington.

Lorraine is now seeking part-time work, as an extra allocation of support hours means she will have more spare time (and her teacher’s registration will lapse otherwise).

“It is difficult to access part-time teaching work, as people in Wellington don’t know me. I feel like I have been dumped out of my network, and my professionalprofile is gone.”

Lorraine also struggles financially now that she is not working. She had some accrued leave, which she lived off for awhile and then went on the Invalid’s Benefit herself after a bout of ill health left her with only 25% vision in one eye. She is now eligible for national superannuation, but it has all been much harder than she thought.

Lorraine’s self-esteem now comes from knowing she is doing the best that she can for her mother.

“Some moments are very poignant,” she says. “I enjoy the little things, like watching mum with her newly adopted cat, sitting by the fire with her grandchildren, or enjoying the little girls who visit from next door.”

“She does the crossword every day and tells me she doesn’t know what she would do without me.”

She says the relationship with the person you support can change once you leave employment.

“There are days when you feel frazzled. Sort out your finances before making the decision, because suddenly not having a salary will make a big difference.”

She recommends trying to budget realistically and to predict all expenses, including running a car.

For more advice about juggling caring and employment, and work/life balance issues, ensure that you receive quarterly issues of Family Care NZ, our magazine for carers of all ages.

© Family Care NZ

Photo credit:, KacsoSandor