Concerns of Young Carers
Young carers shoulder a lot of responsibility at relatively young ages, but often they do so without anyone outside of their families really knowing what they have taken on. It is important that to help young carers they be identified, concerns about their new lifestyle be acknowledged, their stresses be explored and support be offered to help them with all aspects of their lives.
Identifying Young CarersYoung carers are not a well-defined group, and in fact the only real commonality between them all is that they are under the age of 18 and look after a family member who suffers from physical or mental ill health. The care such a young person provides can be almost anything, from household chores to personal care, medical care to translation or interpretation services. Often young carers live in the same household as the relative for whom they care, such as the case of a child caring for a parent or a teen caring for a sibling, though they could live in separate dwellings but provide care for close relatives such as grandparents, aunts or uncles.
Concerns for Young CarersThere are many concerns for young carers who may not live balanced lives as a result of their caring activities. Many adults worry that young carers:
- Assume inappropriate responsibilities for their ages.
- Take on too many responsibilities with little support.
- Lose out on childhood or teenage years by assuming the responsibilities of an adult.
- Become awkward or inexperienced socialising with others their own ages.
- Suffer at school due to lack of concentration, energy or enthusiasm.
- Find their hopes for the future curtailed due to feeling responsible for others’ care.
- Shun hobbies, sports or other leisure activities as frivolous or unnecessary.
- Suffer physically, mentally or emotionally from added responsibilities.
Stresses of Young CarersMany young carers also find that they have stresses and concerns associated with their new roles, though some may be unwilling to acknowledge them for fear that they are viewed as weak, unable to cope or even somehow disrespectful to the loved one for whom they are caring. Many young carers may worry about their loved ones, their schoolwork, their friends and romantic relationships and needing assistance with any aspect of their lives. Some may even worry that by disclosing their caring activities or status as a carer that their lives will be adversely impacted and so choose to remain quiet about assistance they may need.
Support for Young CarersYoung carers may find a great deal of acceptance and support from other young carers, such as through a local council support group or a wider Young Carers Project. Such young people may also find that teachers, home link workers, friends, medical professionals including a school nurse, and other relatives can all provide support and help access greater assistance as needed. Family friends, parents of their own friends, members of the clergy, coaches and other trusted adults may also be able to provide support for young carers who need it.
Young carers take on responsibilities that many of their contemporaries never need worry about. Identifying young carers, exploring typical concerns for this group, acknowledging the stress of these young people and find out more about support for young carers can all help them achieve a more balanced, healthy lifestyle.