Who to talk to
If you are under the age of 18 and providing care to a terminally ill relative then you are a ‘young carer’. If you are between the age of 18 and 25 then you are a ‘young adult carer’. Both young carers and adult young carers take on practical and emotional caring responsibilities that would normally be expected of an adult.
You are very likely to have a number of worries as a young carer or young adult carer looking after a family member approaching end of life, which are perfectly normal and it is important that you are able to talk to someone about these:
- What has caused the illness, was it my fault and can I catch it?
- Why has it happened to us?
- What can I do to make him/her feel more able to deal with the illness?
- How will the illness get worse and when will he/she die?
- Who will look after me?
- If I tell anyone will I go into care?
- What do we do for money?
- What do I do in an emergency if no one else is around to care for them?
- How do I cope with how I feel and my own emotions?
Talk, talk, talk! Talking to someone such as another family member, your favourite teacher or a best friend is really important. You may feel this is risky and makes you different from the rest of your peer group but risks invariably pay off. Think about who you most trust and write down what you want to say as this can really help organise your thoughts and feelings. Also pick your time and place. Think about when might be the best time for you to talk and where you will feel most comfortable. You also need to be clear what outcome you want to achieve from talking to a trusted person. Is it emotional support you are seeking, practical support or both? Do you just want to be listened to?
Where can I go for someone to talk to?
The person you are caring for may have a key professional at a local hospice and they will understand how you are feeling as they meet many young carers. If you are caring for a sibling Christopher’s Children’s Hospice offers support to the whole family including sibling groups. To find out about your local hospice go to Further information and directory.
Action for Carers Surrey
If under 18 years you could also think about contacting Surrey Young Carers If you are between the age of 18 and 24 they also have a service that can help.
Action for Carers Surrey has specialist advisors and run group events specific for young carers and young adult carers which give you an opportunity to meet other young people in a similar situation. They may also offer fun days and evenings out including someone there to listen to your worries. They can also offer information to the rest of your family for example financial advice.
Social Care Support
Young carers and adult young carers have the right to an assessment of their own needs separate to an assessment of the person you care for or other carers in the family. This is your opportunity to explain what is happening at home and your worries and to see if you can get more help. You will need to see a social care worker in the team that is supporting your relative or you can ask to speak to a social care worker in the hospice that is providing care. Action for Carers Surrey or your GP can also make a referral on your behalf.
If you tell your teachers that you are looking after someone at home who is approaching the end of life then they will be able to be more understanding with any school pressures and try to help. You may find it easier for your parents or other family members to tell the school. It is important the school know as they may have:
- A school counsellor for you to talk to
- A young carers group at the school that meet regularly
- It may be you are being bullied as sometimes young carers can be seen as different. Remember you should never put up with bullying.
- Allowances can be made in relation to homework eg. extending deadlines, giving more one to one teaching support
- Allowing you to keep your mobile on in class in case of emergencies
There are lots of charities and organisations that can help provide you with information about the illness of the person you care for and an opportunity to talk. Some of these charities have helplines and chatrooms. See Directory and Further Information (Support for Children and Families) for a list of different organisations. In particular consider contacting the local charity Jigsaw which specialises in giving support to young people caring for a person who is approaching end of life or who are grieving for a relative.
If you have just lost a parent, so you don’t feel alone, listen to other young people talk about how they dealt with some of the difficulties after the death of their mum or dad.
This is an animated film created by young people who have lost a mum, dad, brother or sister.
You can also find a range of personal blogs and articles written by young people about how they have dealt with grief in different situations by going to the Young Minds website.
You can also call the UK child bereavement helpline on 0800 0288840 or visit Child Bereavement UK On this website you can also find details of an app for 11 to 25 year olds which has been created by a group of bereaved young people directly working with the charity. It includes information about bereavement and grief, feelings and how to get help as well as a built in notepad so you can write down how you are feeling with links to the website. It also includes short stories from bereaved young people as well as short films they have written and made.
The app can also be used by friends, teachers, parents and professionals who would like to know how to support bereaved young people.
Remember it is important to be safe when using chat rooms. Agree rules with your parents about what you can and can’t do on the internet. This will save arguments later. Don’t use your real name or give personal information such as your address or phone number.
Consider going to Winstons Wish to talk to a member of the helpline team about your grief.
You can also use the youth website of Cruse Bereavement Care, Hope Again This website provides a safe space where you can learn from other young people, how to cope with grief, and feel less alone.