The enduring bond between a mother and daughter is celebrated in this year’s Carer of the Year. Melbourne mother of three, Anna Culcasi, has been named 2017 Continence Carer of the Year for her 24 hour care of her elderly mother Dina.
Family means everything to Anna. Every week they gather around Anna’s dining table in the home she and husband Phillip share with her mother Dina in Reservoir, in Melbourne’s north.
Daughter Sonia, who with her two sisters nominated their mother for the Award, said Anna is a wonderful cook, testimony to the culinary traditions handed down to her by her ninety year old grandmother who moved to Australia from northern Italy in the 1950s.
During her working life, Anna worked with intellectually disabled adults as a carer and house supervisor at a Department of Human Services facility for intellectually disabled adults.
“She has always looked out for other people. It’s always part of her nature to be caring and encouraging to others. She loved helping the residents, especially when she could take them out on field trips and provide them support and care so they could enjoy some independence and dignity,” said Sonia.
For more than 25 years, Anna provided care to her intellectually disabled clients. And while many would head home for rest when they clocked off at the end of each day, this was when Anna would clock on for her labour of love.
For all of her life, Anna has lived with her mother, Dina.
Dina and her loving husband Ampelio built a home for their two young children, Anna and her brother Santo. When Anna married Phillip in 1972, in traditional Italian style, the newlyweds lived at home with Anna’s parents until they could afford to go out on their own. But suddenly in 1974, Ampelio died.
The intergenerational living arrangements initially intended to help the newlyweds, now took on a life of their own and an unbreakable family bond was formed.
Anna’s family soon grew with the addition of daughters Maria-Louise, Sonia and Dina (named for her grandmother), and the three generations lived happily together under one roof. A team, through thick and thin.
“It was wonderful growing up in the house with all of us together,” said Sonia.
Ten years ago, Dina was diagnosed with dementia. In true ‘team’ style, Anna, Phillip and their girls all pulled together to provide care for Dina as dementia worked its way through its various debilitating stages and more recently, a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease continued to provide more obstacles.
Naturally, it was Anna who took on the bulk of the burden, adapting her lifestyle to meet the crippling effects of her mother’s condition.
Without so much as a second thought, Anna became Dina’s full-time carer, steadfast in her commitment to provide care and dignity to others, she was ready to meet the ‘high-care’ needs her mother reached in recent years.
Dina is now totally dependent on Anna for everything. She can no longer walk, has limited language skills, needs help with feeding, requires assistance going to the toilet and is incontinent.
“Mum has a very special relationship with her mother. Caring for someone is very hard, but caring for your mother and being powerless to stop the ravages of her condition as your roles reverse must be incredibly hard for Mum. But you would never know. She has never been anything but positive, supportive and nurturing. Making sure all our needs are met with dignity and love,” she said.
The 2017 Continence Carer of the Year is generously sponsored by:
To get help for bladder, bowel and pelvic floor health problems, call the free National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66 or talk to a doctor or continence specialist.
For further information visit continence.org.au.
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