Dealing with sudden injury, disability and illness in your family is difficult enough. But what would you do if both of your parents suddenly required full-time care… on the other side of the world?
This was the dilemma Mat faced six years ago. It inspired him to create the wonderful organisation we now know as Like Family.
But how did Like Family come to be? Here's Mat's story...
We've all had bad luck before. But we don't expect it to happen twice.
First, it was Mat's dad. He was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 75, four years after recovering from a stroke.
Six months later, Mat found out his mum, Helene, had a rare disease called herpes simplex encephalitis. It caused severe damage to her cognitive abilities, and she lost the ability to talk, walk, and eat.
Mat was 26 years old at the time, and had just started a new life in Australia. He didn't expect to become a primary carer for both of his parents who were back in Canada.
As an only child, I had to learn a lot, quickly, and take on so much responsibility.
He had to move back to Quebec and negotiate longer-than-expected leave with his employer. He also had to look after his parents' finances and apply for government subsidies whilst caring for their different needs. It caused immense stress:
The days were long and hard work. The lack of social interactions and the fatigue started to have an impact on my mental health.
Mat eventually relocated his parents to Australia, moved in with his in-laws, and took on three jobs to financially support himself and his family.
One of the biggest challenges for Mat? Being the only social outlet for his parents.
Mat's parents didn't know anyone else in Australia. Sometimes they'd leave their apartment and get lost, and Mat would have to drop everything at work to find them.
Mat's biggest problem wasn’t finding medical care; it was finding a way for his parents to re-engage with their community and improve their independence.
Then Destiny arrived. Literally.
Mat and Jenna had a friend named Destiny, who offered to take Mat's parents out to the beach. Destiny wasn't a nurse or a qualified support worker. But she and Mat's parents got along splendidly. They started hanging out once a week, and bonded over a shared interest of music.
The experience inspired them to start Like Family,
to help primary carers like myself, find trusted locals in their community to help provide much needed social care and respite.
So Like Family was born
Today, Like Family is an NDIS registered provider that connects thousands of isolated Australians with locals in their community. Our Social Carers help our members to gain independence, build long-lasting relationships and learn new skills through social support.
I learned so much from the experience of caring for my parents. I have now devoted my life to helping families like ours who experience isolation and loneliness that comes from being a primary carer
Whether you need help with grocery shopping, or someone to go to the movies with, Like Family is here to offer a helping hand.
Join Like Family today
Looking for aged care or disability support for yourself or a loved one? Head to our website to find a Social Carer near you. If you have any questions, you can contact our friendly customer care team at email@example.com or call 1800 545 332.
Note: this is a version of an article published by SBS in May 2021.