I’ve been a young carer since the age of eight, when my parents divorced and I moved with my mother and two younger siblings to Gloucestershire. My younger brother, Ethan, has learning and behavioural difficulties as well as global developmental delay. This means he requires constant supervision and help with daily activities, especially cooking and being out in the community as he has very little danger-awareness.
It started out with me keeping my brother occupied after school and as I grew older progressed to me taking him out on trips to the library or on walks. By the time I was 16 I was taking care of him when my mother popped out to take my younger sister to various weekly activities such as her swimming lessons. He sometimes grows restless when waiting around and this can make him run off or act aggressive so it’s safer for me to look after him at home.
I’m 20 years old now and away at University so now only able to help care for him when I’m home during the holidays. I’ve also started taking on other roles when I’m back such as cooking in the evenings. This frees up more time for my mother to spend with Ethan reading with him and keeping him occupied.
One of the hardest things about being a young carer is that it can be very time consuming and stressful. When Ethan has had a bad day he can get very aggressive and in the past when I got back from school it was the last thing that I wanted to deal with. He can sometimes be calmed down with a walk through the local area or some attention, however as our mother is often fairly busy with household tasks it would often fall on me to either try to calm him down (or ignore him as best I could!).
Being part of Gloucestershire Young Carers really helps deal with some of the problems that come with being a young carer and offers support. They offer activities and workshops on topics such as mental health and healthy living which are issues that are important for young carers and I have found this invaluable. I’ve also benefited from the exciting days out they offer during the holidays such as watersports and a trip to London for the day. These really help me to relax and take a break from my caring role, especially when I was in my caring role all day all week. I’ve also had a chance to make new friends during my time at GYC and to take a part in shaping their new Young Adult Carer service by being on a steering group for this project. This has really helped build my confidence and communication skills.