Young Carers for people with Disabilities

What are young carers?

The BBC estimates that there are about 700,000 young carers in the UK. Being a young carer often means looking after a family member who is ill or helping them by looking after the other members of the family while they can’t.

Young carers often do more chores than other children would. On top of providing emotional support to the person they are caring for they may also have to learn how to nurse them or look after their personal needs like bathing and dressing.

It can be hard work being a young carer. Sometimes other children don’t understand your responsibilities and you have less free time than others.

Many young cope well with caring, especially if you have support from other family members and it’s important to look after yourself. You have the right to be looked after too and there are lots of places and people you can go to to get help.

Getting help

Sometimes, being a young carer can get too much to deal with on your own. If you’re having any of these feelings, talk to your teacher, school nurse, college counsellor or GP who can help you.

  • Stressed by too much responsibility
  • Physically tired
  • Worried about your relative’s health
  • Coping with other people’s mood
  • No time for yourself or your homework
  • Missing school
  • Feeling embarrassed about your situation
  • Being bullied
  • Low self-esteem, anxiety, anger or guilt

You’re not alone if any of these happen to you. Young carers miss an average of 48 days of school because of their role and 68% have been bullied at some point directly because of having to care for someone. Organisations set up to help young carers recognise all of these problems and have people and strategies to support you.

Even if you don’t feel like you need help for a problem, it is always good to have the support of others who understand your situation. Young carers groups run all around the UK to help with advice as well as giving you somewhere to let off steam and enjoy yourself.

A day in the life of a young carer

Being a young carer has to fit around our everyday activities and our routines. Despite our caring roles, we still attend school, something we juggle five days a week.

Morning

The hardest thing about being a young carer can be not getting enough sleep

I wake up and feel tired and sick

Before I leave for school I would tell my mum to ring me if needed and I’d ring back at lunch time

During the school day

School can make us feel different things…

School can take our mind off things, and allow a break from the caring role, but throughout the day we can worry about the person we care about.

My school lets me call at break time from the office

We really want to be able to call or message to check on them, but unfortunately schools don’t always allow us to use mobile phones on the school premises. Sometimes it feels like no one understands. There aren’t assemblies on being a young carer so it can feel difficult to talk to people about it.

I just stay quiet, I don’t tell my friends or if they ask questions I make excuses

We had an assembly for mental health awareness week, it made me think about my mum a lot and I felt sad

Most of us have support at school – we feel more likely to go talk to a member of staff rather than a classmate, but this isn’t always as thorough as we’d hope for.

They kind of provide support, but something more than just talking would be better

After school

The first thing I do when I finish school is check my phone for messages from my dad

We usually go straight home. It can be difficult fitting everything in; our caring roles often mean that we aren’t able to see friends, do after school activities or even do our homework.

After school, I go see my Mum first and see what she needs help with, after checking on her I get on with my chores

I very rarely go out after school or spend time with friends

Sometimes I haven’t done my homework in time and I have to copy off my friends or rush it last minute

On a Wednesday I go play football, I can’t let the team down but it also feels bad leaving my Mum

Bed

Before bed, we make sure everything is taken care of and prepare for the next day.

I get stuff ready for the next day and my stuff for school

The last thing I do before bed is check that my dad has taken his tablets

How to Care for the Disabled

Caring for the disabled can be a monumental task, especially if you are handling a loved one or close friend. Not only are you watching over the person to avoid further complications, but you also have feelings yourself. You might feel overburdened and angry at times, even though you are doing everything you can to help. It takes tremendous energy and strength on your part. But people being cared for go through similar difficulties, knowing that your struggles are necessary for their needs.

Develop a strong support system. To relieve yourself of the many duties that have to be done, have friends and family available to share in the caring. Keep in close contact with health care aides who may also be involved.

Arrange all medical care needed. This includes setting up or monitoring scheduled visits to the doctor or medical clinic. Help the person with any medications that need to be taken on a regular basis. Avoid the possibility of overdoses or missing doses of medicine. Pillboxes are a good way to properly sort medications according to the days of the week. Stay informed about the medication the person is taking through communication with the person’s physician.

Keep your loved one’s mind and body active to help prevent the depression and hopelessness that can strike any disabled person. Good nutrition and exercise play a key role in improving one’s strength and moods. Nutritious foods should always be available at the home, kept fresh and up to date so it does not become unhealthy. Any physical activity, of course, will have to be done based on the person’s abilities.

Protect your loved one from any dangers in the home. Make sure the house is safe. This may include removing rugs that can cause slips, installing handrails in the bathroom or on walls throughout the home, making sure the rooms are free from debris or anything else that pertains to the person’s disability.

Take charge of yourself. As a person caring for a disabled loved one, you must remember your abilities and limits. Take regular breaks with the help of a relative or someone close to avoid becoming frustrated or feeling helpless.

Try to make the disabled person feel as independent as possible. Allow your loved one to handle as many tasks as he or she can without your assistance.