Caring brings out best in people

Margaret Bruce with her son Liam.
Margaret Bruce with her son Liam.

Liam Bruce of Mullumbimby is setting a blazing pace for his parents.

Liam, almost 19, has just completed year 12 at Mullumbimby High School while holding down three after-school jobs as well as competing successfully at State level sports championships, TAFE for cooking classes while keeping up his musical and social pursuits.

Oh, and by the way, Liam has Down Syndrome.

As Liam's mum, Margaret, 58, will tell you, a child with Down Syndrome requires a lifelong caring responsibility.

This can often stretch to 40, 50 or 60 years, with little respite.

What happens to their child when they die is a major concern for these carers.

Margaret, speaking out during Down Syndrome Awareness Week, said many people with Down syndrome were now, for the first time, living into their 50s and 60s and their parents were even older.

At the time these children were born, and for many decades after, there were no respite services, no home help and no social activities for them.

As a result their parents have had to care without help for the vast majority of their lives.

Even now, many 50 and 60 year old parents still have their adult child with Down Syndrome at home.

However, as these carers are getting older and frailer they are struggling to cope.

Margaret said that from the beginning Liam was part of the mainstream community.

"Caring for and relating to people with perceived disabilities can bring out the best in people, at an individual and social level.

"It enhances the quality of life for everybody and deepens compassion," Margaret said.

Mullumbimby and Byron communities have been very supportive of Liam which has made looking to the future easier for his parents, who one day will not be around to support him in his dreams and aspirations.

President of Carers NSW Louise Gilmore, said ageing carers needed adequate support to be able to let go of caring for their adult sons and daughters.

"It is grossly unfair to expect frail elderly parents to continue to care seven days a week without a break.

Margaret said people with Down Syndrome (and other differently able people) needed to be seen for what they could do, rather than for what they could not do.

- Madeleine Doherty

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