Full-time carers for mum
REPORTER: Karlee Hooper
BROADCAST DATE: December 6, 2006
Aleisha Rhodes is only 14 years old and her brother Dale is 12, but they are full-time carers for their sick mum, Kym. It is an inspiring story of love.
Most adults would find it hard to 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 the two kids lost their childhoods and became permanent carers.
"We don't really live a normal life," Dale said.
Kym, 43, 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, Kym relies more and more on her kids.
"I couldn't do it without them," she 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.
Instead of football, 12-year-old Dale works out with the vacuum cleaner.
"If one goes out, the other one has to stay home," Kym said. "That's their rule, to look after me. They're just incredible."
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.
Jane Hughes from Carers Australia says 380,000 young Australians are devoting themselves to caring for family or friends.
One-third of those, like Dale and Aleisha, are school age children.
"When we're at school all the time it's constantly on my mind, like if she's fallen or something," Aleisha said.
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," Kym said. "That really hurts me."
Long-time friend Bev Brock will share power of attorney with John, the children's stepbrother.
"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.
John himself is only 19.
"Yeah, it's something I'm looking forward to taking on," he said.
The family's commitment is indeed inspiring. Asked why they do it, the kids said "because we love her".
"If you love your mum, then you love your mum," Aleisha said.