There are many challenges young carers face, one of the biggest being that they often go unseen, as the adults around them do not realise the reality of their home life. This Action for Young Carers Day, Joshua Douglas, now 22, describes what life was like for him as a child caring for his disabled father.
Although dad’s physical life was restricted by his injury, he was still himself. For me it’s all I ever knew as he was injured before I was born. In fact, it’s how he met my mum, as she was one of the nurses who looked after him.
For me, on a day-to-day basis, I was involved in a lot of his general care like feeding him and helping him to get about. Caring for him was also about helping him by being there for him. That’s something that is massively understated – people don’t realise how much emotional support young carers are providing for their parents, and the strain it puts on young people is colossal.
My mum did her best to protect me from having to help with dad’s personal care but as I got older, from around 15 years old, I helped with that too. I did everything.
I understood life was different for me, as a child who had these extra responsibilities at home. I had the ability to care for my dad, so I stepped up to share the caring with my mum. It was just something I did. I had a very different life but my parents kept it as normal as possible. It was different but it was always very positive.
That said, there were periods when things became more challenging for us as a family. On one such occasion I had to take some time off school to reflect and recover. I knew the support was there but I just wasn’t very good at asking for it. I just got on with life. It was after one of these episodes that dad found Family Action. He was searching for support services for young carers and came across a social group.
It was life-changing for me. The young carers group leader Amanda came to meet me and took me to their meet-ups which take place every three months or so. We’d go bouldering or do cooking or just chat. I made friends with people who knew what I was going through. Before I joined the group I wasn’t really aware of the impact it was having on my wellbeing. The group made me realise what I had been going through and helped me to become more self-aware.
“I made friends with people who knew what I was going through … The group made me realise what I had been going through and helped me to become more self-aware.”
My support worker also helped me apply for a grant for a desktop computer which opened up the world of gaming to me and gave me another outlet when I wanted to get away from it all at home.
I didn’t do very well at school because of the situation at home and, towards the end, I was focussing on just getting through it. So, when I left school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but decided to go to university. It did me the world of good and, once again, the computer paid off as it was really valuable in my studies. As I now work as a data engineer you could say that computer, and Family Action, have helped me get to where I am today.
If you are a young carer or know someone who is struggling with responsibilities at home, get in touch with our young carer support services. They can provide a friendly, listening ear or put you in touch with other young carers to join a support group.