I am not one for writing about my feelings or discussing them with others but I have been told doing so could help me as well as hopefully helping others.
My Name is Kirsty. My mum was diagnosed with MS in her late 30’s and hid it from me as a very young child as best she could so not to worry me. As her conditioned worsened she was forced into admitting she needed help. For me it was a natural instinct to help her where I could and as the years went by I found myself being more or a less her full time carer at the age of 13.
I had a great deal of help from social workers for a few years but that seemed to dwindle as I did more. I wanted to be the one that cared for my mum, not some stranger that doesn’t understand her needs the way I do.
Cooking, cleaning and helping mum with washing and dressing seemed to just happen without realising it. Luckily for me my mum was a teacher up until the MS really took hold so I was taught very well at home but took time off from attending school far too often during her worst times.
For me being a teenage carers meant I did not socialise much, found myself getting withdrawn and always making excuses to my friends when asked to go out, go to parties etc. After a while the invites stopped.
A lot happened between the ages of 13 to 17 for both me and my mum, mum would cry a lot but not out of self pity, she was hurting inside because she could see me growing up without doing all the fun and silly things that she did as a child. To me the most important thing was looking after my mum. Who cares about going out and being silly, that was the last thing on my mind.
I guess looking back I grew up very fast and was no longer a child when in reality I obviously was, I just didn’t think as a child.
Mum was taken into hospital when an infection left her unable to breath, this was one thing I could not attend to and for the first time ever I felt completely helpless.
Mum died four days before my 18th birthday. Many dark months followed, mostly filled with guilt but I found myself still worrying about her, who was making sure she took her meds, was she being helped correctly etc. Even though she had gone I still felt she needed caring for. Looking back I guess I was so programmed to help her on a daily basis that my natural instincts just would not stop.
You never get over losing somebody that you love and have cared for so intensely and I guess this article is not about me or even about telling my personal story, it is certainly not one looking for sympathy. The sole purpose of this article is to reach out to child and teenager carers who will hopefully learn to accept professional help.
I’m not saying stand back and let somebody else care for your loved ones, I’m simply saying what my mum said to me so many times and that is you need to seriously consider your own life and find an even balance between caring and being there for your loved one.
I now work as a professional carer and consider myself a dam good one and because of that I know that real dedicated and caring help is available and should at least be looked into.
If you are a young or teenage carer I seriously recommend from experience that you should consider some of the following organisations and contact them and talk to them for yourself as much as for your loved one.
What help is out there?
One mistake I made was not considering how my mum felt about my own well-being. I was blind to that because I just wanted to make sure she was okay and had the best care available and I truly felt that could only come from me. I now realise that if I had accepted help from outside, gone out more and done things outside of the house then my mum would have been happier inside knowing that I was at least having some sort of normal life. Is easy to look back on your mistakes afterwards and say ” if only I had done things differently” well this is me looking back and sharing my thoughts on how I maybe could have done things better.
The following links and organisations are dedicated to helping you and the person you care for to have a better quality of life and my only piece of advice would be to at least contact them and consider at least accepting partial help for both of you.
Action for Children provides dedicated support for young carers, not just practical support but also emotional support that is so important for your own well-being.
The ABLEize directory also lists some fantastic resources aimed specifically at helping and providing support to young and teenage carers both locally and nationally.
The NHS offer dedicated support services to carers and also answer many questions that you will undoubtedly experience on a day-to-day caring basis. Their website can be found here and also contains telephone contacts that you should consider.
The children’s Society reports that there are more than 166,000 young and teenage carers across the UK. The site offers a host of information designed to help you and your loved one to cope better. See their young carers page here.
Barnardos is an organisation that worked with on a regular basis and they really do make a difference in helping the young carers and family members. They have a specific section of their website dedicated to young carers. I’m sure you will see many instances that are immediately recognisable to you even if you do not contact them to accept their health you will at least feel you are not so alone.