How I found support as a young carer

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Kaleb, 23, has been caring for 17 years, supporting his mother who has multiple physical and mental disabilities. He cares full time, whilst studying at university.  

Here, Kaleb talks about his experience as a male young carer, how he found support and how this helped him to study at university.

What’s it like being a male young carer?

“I grew up in a family that was stoic and reserved. I never considered asking for support for myself. Perhaps it was because support was not easy to find. More likely, it was because I didn’t know how to ask for it. It was only when I started to seek help, I realised I hadn’t recognised my emotions or even that my role as a male carer might be different or unusual. My resilience brings stability and calmness; it relieves the turmoil Mum suffers. However, I worry this may be perceived negatively by others due to my sex. Being a male carer supporting a female person brings difficulties. Tasks such as assisting with personal care can be especially problematic for it causes great embarrassment for Mum.

How did you find support as a young carer?

In 2018 when I was in the hospital, I saw a hub for carers support which had leaflets for Carers Support Wiltshire and an application form for a carer’s emergency card. I decided to sign up for the emergency card because Mum would be left without help should I be unable to care for her. I contacted Carer Support Wilts as I was curious what services were available. Through this I found support for my mum through grants. Through Carer Support Wilts I met the Young Adult Carers’ group and was allocated a support worker. I also found information helpful to my situation and grants that I was eligible for.

How has the support made a difference?

By talking to my support worker, it has helped me to talk about my caring role and helped me understand how to juggle my role whilst studying at university. Furthermore, through the support and the available grants, I managed to acquire equipment for my university course. This allowed me to continue my studies unimpeded. Being in contact with other Young Adult Carers has given me a chance to discuss my caring role.

Did you know you were a young carer?

I had no idea I was a carer when I was young and what the implications were – it was just another (seemingly) ordinary part of my life. I went to school like everyone else, I completed my homework like everyone else, I did almost everything my peers were doing. On the other hand, I wasn’t going to extracurricular activities, nor was I hanging out and playing with everyone else. My caring role did not disrupt my life in an overtly apparent way. Its affect was much more subtle.

My teachers started to have conversations with me during primary school about my role at home but the term ‘carer’ didn’t come up. It wasn’t until in Year 9 when my school labelled me a carer and greater attention was made toward my home life. Formal carers were allocated for Mum. I was referred to the local Young Carers support and activity group. This gave me the opportunity to meet other young carers my age through recreational activities. From then on, I saw my situation in a new light.

How do you juggle your studying with your caring role?

For much of the time it is very much like the circus trick, plate spinning. Each plate represents my caring role and my studies. I try to keep each plate spinning to prevent it from falling but it demands a lot of energy. Fortunately, no plates have fallen, as yet.

When I attended Sixth Form my A-levels overshadowed my caring role which left Mum without the support she needed. After matriculating to university, I was oblivious to the impact my absence had on Mum. My education and my caring role have continuously competed with each other.

What skills do you think you’ve gained from being a young carer?

I manage stressful situations excellently. Through my stoicism I maintain an atmosphere of calmness. This is very helpful to fight anxiety. I am developing leadership qualities thanks to my caring role making big decisions. I’m good at multitasking, taking care of the house – laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc. I’ve also taken care of my younger sibling. When they were younger, I took them to school, I would talk to their teachers, I helped with homework, and I also helped to look after them when they were ill. As part of my role, I also talk to medical professionals and specialists. I’ve learnt a lot of medical knowledge!

What advice would you give to other young carers out there?

Seek help wherever you can, don’t keep it all to yourself. It’s helpful to be open about your situation and find others that can help you.

If you need support as a young carer

Visit our young carers hub page for support and information.

Find support from other carers by joining The Mix’s young carer group chats.

Read The Mix’s guide to caring for someone with a mental health condition.

Get specialist help and support for young carers and young adult carers from the Carers Trust

Next Steps

  • Carers Trust is a major charity for, with and about carers. They work to improve support, services and recognition for anyone living with the challenges of unpaid caring.
  • 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.
  • If you're under 25 and would like free confidential telephone counselling from The Mix to help you figure things out complete this form and we'll call you to arrange your first session.
  • Mind offers advice and support to people with mental health problems. Their helpline runs nine to six from Monday to Friday. 0300 123 3393
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.

By Holly Turner

Updated on 19-Mar-2021

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