A young carer is someone under 18 who provides or intends to provide care for another person. The concept of care includes practical or emotional support.
When I was a child, I was a young carer. Based on my experiences, I have created what I believe is a realistic set of Golden Rules. It has taken me years to realise these. If I could go back in time, this is what I would say to a younger me:
- If you decide to be a young carer, remember it is not your responsibility to provide all the care.
- You should not feel that you have to provide care because no one else is willing to help.
- You should receive support from various people, including family, friends, health and social care professionals.
- If you are not getting support, then you should ask for it. It’s not weak to ask for help.
- You should be able to choose which caring activities you undertake and which you don’t.
- It’s not selfish to say no. It’s also not selfish to say what you need or want.
- Some people will never understand your situation, however hard you try to explain.
- Identify good friends, keep them close, and tell them about your caring role. It will help to chat about your problems with people you trust.
- Don’t accept everything that adults say. Some adults lie, cheat, avoid problems, ignore the truth and only think about themselves. These will often be the people telling you it is your responsibility to provide care.
- Don’t sacrifice your life to become a carer. Form relationships, pursue an education, gain qualifications and skills, and achieve your ambitions.
I would like to thank the following people for reviewing various drafts of this book: Helen, Karen, Struan, Graeme, Liz, Sheila and Cris. This book has evolved considerably whilst I wrote it and I am extremely grateful to the reviewers for their contributions.
I would also like to thank the friends who have offered help and support at various times in my life. Some of them are named in this book and some are not. I am humbled by the kindness and compassion I have received. Thanks also to Sharon Rodden, counsellor and psychotherapist, who provided invaluable counselling across many difficult areas.
I would particularly like to thank my wife Helen for all the love, encouragement and patience she has shown whilst putting up with me! In 2015 our daughter Beth was born, and she is a continual source of joy.