Thanks for stopping by. This is a blog post based on raising more awareness for many young carers around the country. This is that at the time of posting this blog post, it is young carers awareness day. Now I am not a young carer myself, but I did provide care and support to my brothers when I was much younger. They both have autism and every so often I still provide support for my brothers, because being in someones life should be a family commitment.
Young carers awareness day
So whats it all about then? Why the need for young carers awareness day? I mean, aren’t young people not given that support already from somewhere? Is it someone else’s responsibility? Well I will come on to that in a moment, but for now I want to put a spot light on young carers who do their best to care for someone. The main reason I am throwing my chips in on this is that its not common for young carers to write, blog, speak and raise that awareness themselves. Heck! many young carers do not even know they are young carers so they often miss out on support.
Young carers awareness day runs every year and is driven by a national charity called ‘Carers Trust’. Taken from Carers Trust’s website ” For many, their caring journey begins at a much younger age. Caring for someone can be very isolating, worrying and stressful. For young carers, this can negatively impact on their experiences and outcomes in education, having a lasting effect on their life chances.”
I touched briefly on the importance of raising awareness for young carers day, but there is much more to it than just raising awareness. Young people even if not caring still struggle in getting support for many things, this is doubled or tripled for young carers who can unfortunately fall through the system. I hope that those in authority take note of young carers awareness day and help make its aim come to life.
Still, we can only learn so much from the idea of young carers awareness, I think a small story can show so much more to the situation young carers face up and down this country.
A small story
Let me tell you a small story, this story is not based on any living person, but the experiences are very real and they are very hard. I would like to warn you this story pulls no punches, but to get the message across, we sometimes have to point out the painful stories.
My story starts with a young boy, so full of energy, wonder and excitement. His life ahead of him as he notices from his friends at school. His name is Sam. A simple young boy and he was well raised by his mother, she cared for him and she loved him. There was never any issue of the close bonds in the family. His mother had recently divorced from her husband, but she fought on and raised their only son.
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It was as if only yesterday, Sam’s mind wandered back to this unfortunately incident. Sam remember he was just around 8 years old, when he came home from school. He suddenly noticed when he got in, the house was so dark, like all the lights were off. Sam called out to his mother, but no reply came from her. Sam remembered that he walked into the kitchen to get something to eat. The family was struggling as many families low in the income gap tend struggle. Sam was just reaching for a plate out of the cupboard and he spotted his mother sitting on the kitchen floor. Sam asked if she was ok, but after a while she responded, but not directly looking at Sam at all. She slowly replied that she was ok.
Sam did not know what else to say, but he then took his mother by the hand and led her to the living room and turned on the TV. His mother slowly sat down on the sofa and then looked at her young son. Her precious only child. Her eyes seem almost empty of life, but she spoke to Sam, she stroked his hair softly and said that she loved him. Sam’s mother watched the TV and sat there for hours. Sam remembered this so well, he was so confused he never saw his mother act like this before. What was wrong? What could he do?
The next day after Sam came from school, everything seemed different. His mother was well again as if nothing happened the day before. She seemed energetic, and she even asked Sam about his day at school. Sam seemed much happier that his mother was more responsive. However when parent evening came about at the local school, Sam’s mother acted rather strangely when speaking to teachers about her son’s progress at school. Sam was with his mother, but Sam’s mother was struggling to concentrate on what the teachers were saying. Sam panicked, because his school friends were watching. Sam could hear the whispers from his friends. “Sam’s mother is a wierdo! Whats wrong with her”?
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The next day at school, Sam could not be bothered to go in. He was too scared, too ashamed what people might say. Why was his mother acting this way? He played truant and just spent time siting in the park, wondering why his life was giving him such a hard time. He just could not understand, but if there was anything to come out of this. He loved his mother dearly.
The next day Sam’s mother was so unwell, she was asking Sam to do more and more around the house. Sam’s mother seemed to lack energy, she just could not do anything for herself. Sam did the best that he could. Yes, for certain days, Sam’s mother was ok, but things seem to be getting worse. Sam’s mother just sat there, as if not to care. She could not often dress herself, wash and instead Sam slowly took over. He asked his mother if she needed help and he started to cook, shop and clean. All this began taking its toil as Sam’s school work began to suffer.
The school was sending reports to Sam’s mother and soon a phone call came, Sam remembered this as if it was yesterday. He remember how his mother was pleading and saying that she is ok and that there was no problem. Sam wondered why his mother was upset and who she was speaking to over the phone.
Eventually days turned into weeks, weeks to months and then to years. Sam got older, from aged 9…10 and 11. Sam never gave up, he got older, tougher, wiser and even then after all the bullying, insults, stigma and tireless work. He continue supporting his mother. When someone at school asked if he was a carer, Sam did not know what this meant. He just loved his mother, thats all what he wanted.
Sam is now 22 years old. He is sitting in the street watching the people go by, oblivious to Sam’s plight. Sam does not hear much from his mother anymore. His mother has changed and it seemed she has succumbed to something. Sam’s mother can hardly speak much and when she does, its like a mumble, it does not make sense. A cold tear drops from Sam’s face, he wonders what he has missed out on in his life.
“God damn this world!” Sam thinks, as he sits on the floor struggling with his on mental health. “My mother, my life….whats next?”
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Sam begins to finally know what a young carer is….unfortunately for Sam it has come to late and perhaps he is just another statistic among many young carers.
What can we learn from this story?
I hope you found my small story eye opening. I know the story was not meant to be easy, but I know somewhere out there, there are many Sam’s who feel bitter about their situation. What can we learn from this story? We can learn quite a few things.
- Sam had to grow up very quickly.
- Sam’s mother certainly had mental illness, but no one knew the diagnoses
- Sam took on the role of caring for his mother, even when he was not sure how to care for himself.
- Sam’s own roles and duties suffered, especially his education
- Sam lost many of his friends, as children they could not understand Sam’s plight….it was all a game.
- What ever affected the family, eventually affected Sam’s future. Sam felt bitter about things as he feel into the grey area of carer support through his late teens.
- Sam’s mother was terrified of social services. She felt they would take Sam away from her, Sam’s mother just needed that extra support, but many social workers had been moved on. There was now a lack of them, since heavy and sustained cuts removed important support for Sam’s family.
- The health service seemed missing from this story, health support not only for Sam’s mother, but for Sam himself as depression, stress and anxiety slowly crept into Sams experience. Sam did not feel empowered about his experiences.
So then. What next? Who is picking up the pieces? We are, but we have Carers Trust. A national charity fighting so hard to speak for young carers and engaging with young carers to speak for themselves. If nothing is done, young carers pay that heavy price. Young carers lose out on what many young children and young people take for granted. Young carers lose their enjoyment in life, they cannot be children anymore and have no time to play, have fun and feel part of the community.
I have noticed many carer centre’s run young carer groups and I see how happy young carers feel connected to other young carers at these groups. Still, Carers Trust is a charity as many of the carer centres are charities. We spend a lot of time banging that drum for awareness, funding and activism. Carers Trust need more to help with awareness and help with young carers.
A small warning.
I am not sure if there was a theme for young carers awareness day, I am sure there is, but I have just come back from an exciting Triangle of Care working group over at West London MH trust. I am writing this so quickly I hope there are not too many typos and I hope my blog post makes sense.
There is just one thing I would like to say. This blog post is just a warning. We must act now to protect the next generation as social care has a mountain to climb. Whoever is reading my post and is in a position to make a change, however small. We must reduce the situation faced by many young carers across the country. So that we do not have to see more stories of Sam and how his life turned out.
God bless you all and good luck on your carers journey, however young you are.