Life changed dramatically for Australian mother Jasmin after her son Luke was diagnosed with mild bilateral ventriculomegaly, autism, and a chromosome dilution when he was two-and-a-half years old.
The developmental delays caused by these disabilities means Luke requires care around the clock.
A single mother to Luke and her six-year-old daughter Linda, Jasmin provides care for all aspects of Luke's life.
Managing his self-care activities, initiating play with others and preventing Luke from self-harming, the burden of Jasmin's role is felt daily. With Luke often waking in the middle of the night, Jasmin is left with little energy for the day ahead.
"The intensity of my role is often never understood," she says. "On top of the day-to-day activities, it's my job as his mother to ensure he gets the best services. It can be a very emotionally draining process and something that only carers know about."
Enrolled in a school that works around his needs, Luke often engages with support workers and occupational therapists who help Jasmin with her caring role.
Although spare time is often spent catching up on household responsibilities that seem impossible when Luke is around, Jasmin uses this time to catch up with her daughter and other family members.
"Luke's needs are very demanding, meaning when I'm with him, it's extremely difficult to focus on anything else," she says. "My daughter doesn't get the same level of attention that Luke does, so when I'm with her, it's really important for us to spend quality time together.
"Additionally, a couple of hours where I can see friends and don't have to talk about autism is so important, as it brings you back to who you used to be."
Running from October 10-16, National Carers Week recognises and celebrates the 2.65 million Australians who, like Jasmin, provide unpaid care and support to a family member or friend, with 'Millions of Reasons to Care' the theme for 2021.
"We are delighted that this year's National Carers Week theme recognises the millions of carers around the country who provide outstanding care and support to their loved ones," Carers Australia CEO Liz Callaghan says.
"Anyone at any time can become a carer, and National Carers Week is a time to raise awareness among all Australians of the enormous contribution carers make to our nation."
Inspired by her caring role, Jasmin works part-time as a connector facilitator, helping to run playgroups for kids with suspected autism diagnoses. It's here that she finds happiness in supporting other mothers in a similar position.
"My job really brings a lot of purpose to my life," she says. "My role as a carer has made me an even more compassionate person, and I know when Luke was first diagnosed, it was hard to find that compassion in others who are not in the same situation."
In addition to her part-time work, Jasmin is enrolled in a part-time Bachelor of Human Service in the hope of equipping her with the right knowledge to set up her own business.
"In the future, I really hope to be able to support Indigenous families and families of different backgrounds," she says. "There's a huge gap in the cultural background of understanding disability."
Although faced with constant adversities, Jasmin's caring role has helped her appreciate the little things in life a lot more.
From being able to sit down at a cafe to appreciating her own childhood, Luke allows Jasmin to see things in life differently and has high hopes for his future.
"Luke's joy is infectious, which makes me really appreciate that I have him," she says. "When you're a mother in this position, you really hope for the best for your children. I hope to see him thrive and not be so anxious. It is a constant battle for that to be able to happen, however."
"Carers have been doing a tremendous job throughout this difficult time, not only maintaining their caring roles in trying circumstances but often going above and beyond to ensure the safety of those they care for," Liz Callaghan says. "We look forward to showcasing the millions of reasons to care during National Carers Week."
For more details about National Carers Week, visit carersweek.com.au.