The impact of being a young carer
A key theme from across the focus groups was participants describing a lack of time for socialising, for school work, and for other responsibilities outside of caring. Some also felt a time pressure to fit in all of their caring roles, and some felt unable to get part time work (like many of their friends have) due to caring responsibilities.
Some suggested that they felt “selfish” or “worried” when doing other things and not caring. This was described as being because they know the person they care for might be less happy or less well looked after when they are not there. Some said that they could never relax when away from the person they look after because they worry about whether they are needed, or are constantly checking their mobile phone to see whether the person they care for is ok. They felt guilty about doing things for them, like seeing friends, or even school work, when the person they care for might need help.
A number of young carers spoke about experiencing stress or their caring role having an impact on their mental health. Some spoke about challenges concentrating at school or with friends, in particular due to worrying or thinking about their cared for person or due to frequent phone calls with their cared for person. Many said that caring had impacted on their school or college work, including missing lessons, or being unable to complete homework. Some of the challenges were described as:
“Watching the person you are looking after going through a difficult time”
“Just thinking about them, instead of school”
“Having to leave the person you care for to go out doing daily things like school/work”
Some also spoke about finding it difficult or upsetting to see someone you love dealing with an illness or disability, and spoke about feeling isolated from friends. Some also said that they weren’t able to get emotional support from their parents in the same way their peers do, because their parent is the person they care for, or having to put their parent’s emotional needs before their own.
“Trying to juggle multiple tasks at once and feeling overwhelmed and worried”
A number of young carers also spoke about one of the good things about being a young carer being the closeness to their family or cared for person.
Some spoke about learning life skills, interpersonal skills, and becoming responsible and mature at a young age. This included gaining skills through caring, but also learning to care for themselves at a young age and being independent.
Email: Catherine Henry
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