Support for young carers
Caring for someone you love is an incredible thing to do, but it’s important you care for yourself too. We talk you through the support available for young carers.
You’re amazing, you know that right? Whether you’re looking after your mum, dad, grandma or anyone else, you’re a wonderful human being. But amazing people still need help and young carers don’t have to struggle by themselves.
Am I a young carer?
What you do every day may seem so normal you don’t see yourself as a ‘carer’. But, officially, a young carer is someone aged under-18, who looks after a parent or sibling who’s either ill, disabled, has mental health problems or is addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Caring can involve intense round-the-clock work, including giving them their medicine, cooking meals, keeping up with housework, or helping them get out of bed and go to the loo. But it can also be small tasks, like helping a deaf relative by translating sign language for them.
Whatever you do, it’s common to feel like it’s all too much sometimes.
What are common feelings for carers?
It’s likely you wouldn’t change what you do – you love your family and think you’re the best person to look after them. But it’s natural to sometimes feel down too. Common feelings include:
Feeling isolated and lonely – especially if none of your friends understand what you’re dealing with.
Worrying constantly – are they going to get sick again? Are they going to end up in hospital? Are they going to die?
Exhaustion – through doing so many chores, as well as trying to keep up with schoolwork.
Guilt – because you feel you’re not doing enough, or occasionally you just wish they’d ‘go away’ so you could have a bit more of a life.
Anger – because you’re not getting the ‘youth’ everyone else has. If you’re caring for an addict and they relapse, you might feel angry at them for not being stronger.
What can I do to help myself?
Ewan Main, a support worker for the Princess Royal Trust for Young Carers (now the Carers Trust) gave us this advice:
It’s very important to take time away from the situation: It may be hard to get some time away from the person you’re caring for, but it’s important to try and do some of the things that give you pleasure – like playing sport, relaxing with friends or listening to music.
If it’s possible, try and share the care: Caring for someone can leave you worn out. To stop yourself from becoming rundown it may be helpful to share caring responsibility with someone else.
Get in touch with some support groups: When you’re caring for someone it can feel like you’re the only person in the world in that situation. Friends may not understand your life, but luckily there are online forums where you can meet others in your position, like this one run by Carers UK.
Learn about the illness/disability/substance dependency of the person you’re caring for: Knowing about the illness/disability can help you understand your relative’s behaviour or moods. This is especially important if you’re in charge of giving them medication.
Most important of all, talk to someone: It’s normal to go through phases when you’re feeling angry, frustrated, guilty, sad, scared or worried. During those times, it may be helpful to talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling – perhaps a friend, family member or another carer.
Practical help for young carers
Caring can raise all sorts of practical problems, but help is out there.
If caring is affecting your schoolwork – you need to talk to your school about it. Tell them that you’re struggling to keep up so they can work with you to make things more manageable. You could ask them to:
- Give you more time for work
- Let you ring home to check everything’s OK
- Avoid talking about your family life in front of other people
If you feel the caring is getting on top of you –– you may be entitled to extra help; a social worker could provide this. They’ll come round to assess your needs and may be able to get someone to cover.
If you’re worried about your own mental health – you can get help. It’s common for carers to feel like it’s all too much. You may get very depressed or anxious, or have thoughts of hurting yourself. If this happens, talk to your GP. They might offer you treatment for depression or suggestions for getting help.
- Carers UK equips carers with practical help and advice. Meet others in the same position and get the support you need by joining Carers UK's online forum.
- YoungMinds are the voice for young people's mental health and wellbeing.
- Do you want to understand your relationship better? Love Smart helps you work it all out.
- Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
- Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.
Updated on 29-Sep-2015
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