Becky (19) from Dorset describes some of the challenges of looking after both of her parents as well as telling us about some of the measures she thinks could help young people with care responsibilities.
A ‘young carer’ is a young person who cares for a loved one whether it is a parent, sibling or another family member. The role of a young carer can differ from one young person to another; some provide emotional support by sitting with a parent to keep them company, for others it can be more physical support with mobility of a family member.
The role of a young carer can include dressing younger siblings, cooking meals, budgeting, helping to dress a disabled parent and making sure they attend hospital check-ups. From my own experience, being a young carer means a lot of stress and dependency, but also growing up fast to make sure things are in line.
I care for both my parents, my mum who was in a bus accident when I was around eight years old was left with multiple injuries from degeneration of facet joints in the neck, swelling in her legs, build up of fluid in her legs as well as arthritis in her hands and feet. She has limited mobility and struggles to do simple tasks like hold a plate or open a jar. I also care for my dad; he has mental health issues meaning he can’t cope with bills and finances.
A week begins with finances, paying bills, sorting out a shopping list and then each day from there on is vacuuming, keeping mum company, cooking meals, dressing her legs, chasing up social services etc. It’s a very stressful process but something I am proud to do to show them both how much I care about them. Caring for them both means I get little social life, however, it does mean that we are a closer-knitted family. We are very much a close family unit even if we don’t go out much as a family.
I have been part of a young carers group, however, due to having just turned 19 this is coming to an end. Not knowing what support I get from here is like going into the unknown. Support is needed for young carers as no matter the age, the responsibility won’t go away overnight. The support I had from a local young carers group gave me a chance to meet up with other young carers and take part in activities like bowling, cinema trips and even a visit to Thorpe Park. This allowed us to have a fun day out, to let our hair down and enjoy being kids again; to have a small bit of a childhood which in many cases has been cut short due to caring responsibilities.
Support is needed to raise awareness about young carers and to give respite to young people, perhaps to give back some support to help them lead a better future, through education, for example, perhaps allowing extended deadlines for coursework and financial support for young adult carers – some of whom have taken time out of education to go into full time caring but without having enough time to hold down a job.
Readers can find out more about Carers Trust as well as where they can find services locally to support them at: www.carers.org