Caring for a Parent: A Case Study
Chris, 16, is a carer for both his parents. His mum has had schizophrenia and depression for a long time and his father is diabetic and suffers from depression.
Chris told us about some of the duties he helps out with as a carer for his parents: “Caring for my parents means I have to look after my brother and sister who are both younger than me. I do tidying up at home, and keeping my brother and sister out of trouble, washing, cleaning, helping with dinner - most household tasks.”
Help and SupportChris says he cares for his parents for 25+ hours a week. His mum receives Disability Living Allowance but other than that his family don’t receive any other financial support as his father still does some work. Additionally, a carer comes in in the mornings to help get Chris’s sister to schooland to give his mother someone to talk to and to encourage her to do some housework.
Chris is also still at school and admits that it is difficult to balance school work and caring. He said: “Caring for my parents gives me extra responsibilities at home which sometimes means I have trouble when trying to do homework etc.". Luckily he does get some support from school. He said: “I have some time to do homework during the week, but I do the majority of it in school. When I do miss a homework by a day or so, I usually get an extension as the teachers understand my situation at home.”
The Challenges of Being a Young CarerAside from finding time to do homework, Chris has also come across other challenges and obstacles in his time as a young carer. One thing that has been difficult is that in supporting his parents, sometimes he has missed their support for him. He told us: “When I was a small child, I didn't have any friends in school because I was bullied up until a couple of years into secondary school, and I couldn't talk to my parents much. They were not there to encourage me to talk to the other children either.Eventually, when my brother was old enough to help me with tasks at home, things got a bit easier.”
Also as a sixteen-year-old it’s natural that Chris wants to socialise with friends. Although it isn’t easy, he tries to maintain as normal a life as possible. He said: It is hard work, but I try to talk to others and get a break with my friends as often as I can.”
Getting HelpChris says that a great source of support to him has been through Surrey Young Carers. He said: “Surrey Young Carers provide very useful support which is another thing that has helped me, as I get occasional breaks from my responsibilities at home and I get to talk to other kids who are in a similar situation."
Chris’s advice to others in a similar position to him? “I would say to other young people who are about to become carers for their parents that they shouldn't go without talking to people about anything they are going through at home. Always contact someone, possibly from an organisation/charity like Surrey Young Carers.”
If you need help with caring for a parent, look for organisations and charities in your area (you will find support directories online) or speak to your Local Authority about the help that’s available.