For young people caring for a loved one or family member, the summer holidays can be a difficult time, balancing responsibilities at home with school work and social commitments. Here Bailey and Ava tell us what it means to be a young carer over the school break and how no summer is care-free.
Tell us about who you care for
Bailey: I look after my dad because he has Multiple Sclerosis. He struggles to walk very far and needs assisting with other things round the house as well – for example, he’s got this problem with his head where he keeps forgetting things. If my mum’s around she normally reminds him, but I’ve got a little brother who’s just over a year old so if mum’s looking after dad I look after him… and make him laugh!
Ava: I care for my mum who has chronic asthma, arthritis and also sometimes struggles to walk. She’s also pregnant at the moment so I do most of the housework and I help her with her inhalers and nebulisers.
What are summer holidays like for you?
Bailey: I don’t really get to go out during the summer holidays because I’m round the house cleaning up and helping my dad with things he needs, but I don’t really mind because I get to spend more time with him. I don’t know how he feels about it though because he doesn’t like to show his emotions too much. My dad’s technically able to get to town but by the time he makes it to the bus stop he’ll have run out of breath. He’ll encourage me to get out of the house for a bit, but I normally won’t go far just in case something unexpected happens and I need to be there fast… often I don’t really want to leave him.
Ava: Summer can be difficult because my mum’s got really bad hay fever and it can affect her chest, so she has to stay in. Normally she knows what’s going on now and if she acts quickly and takes a lot of medication she’s fine. In general, I do less caring in summer than in winter because when it’s cold it affects my mum’s chest more than when it’s nice and warm. She does struggle, however, and sometimes I’ve had to ring an ambulance because of her condition. It’s scary, but at least I know my mum will get help.
What do you like to do when you do have time?
Bailey: It’s boring where I am. There’s nothing to do near mine as everything fun has been destroyed. The slide at my local park was burnt by vandals and the swings have been tied down and padlocked. The only thing you can do now is play football… and I don’t really like football. Instead, I love playing computer games and reading. I like all the games and books featuring things like crime and horror. I can get into that stuff a lot faster, and they just seem like more exciting subjects.
Ava: I don’t like staying still – normally I’ll do just about anything that doesn’t require sitting down. I go for a nice walk out to the park, or we’ll go swimming. I just try and get out and do as much as I can.
What kind of support do you have?
Bailey: My responsibilities are not something I tell people about because I don’t really want them knowing what goes on in my life unless it’s someone who’s quite close to me. I don’t want people knowing what’s going on with my dad and asking if I’m okay, because that could quite easily get on my nerves. I wouldn’t say I’m shy… It depends. I can’t stop talking to my friends about things like games and books!
Ava: Well, I have one close friend I could speak to, but I don’t really talk about my caring experiences. If I do discuss it I don’t like to talk about anything bad as I try not to think about it.
How could we make life easier for young carers?
Bailey: It would be great if there were ways for young carers to have more freedom. There’s often no one else that can help but it would be great if there were some way that other people could come and care for your parent while you’re out, so you don’t need to worry.
Ava: I wish there was better transport where we live because sometimes when my mum’s not very well she obviously can’t drive, and we often need to take a bus or a train.
How do you feel about going back to school?
Bailey: I worry a little because I will be close to my dad for that long summer period and then I’ll be afraid to leave him again. Most days I can act happy and have a laugh and pretend to hide my worries and sometimes, by pretending to be ok, I sort of trick myself and then, by doing so, I’m fine. But I do carry those worries with me. I’m great at maths at school – my dad calls me the human calculator – but I’m not great at languages. There’s not really anyone adult to talk to in my school – support staff say they’re always busy. They’re scary and don’t feel “open”. We have one teacher that helps though and she’s a nice character. I can have a laugh with her.
Ava: I often feel frustrated at my school and I’m either top of the class in subjects or right at the bottom. It’s a bit overwhelming and, if there’s a big crowd or I’m about to leave assembly, I get really hot and flustered and dizzy. I don’t like school in the first place, and I worry about going in general, but when my mum’s poorly it’s even worse.
Find out more about how we’re helping families to #MakeHappyMemories this summer.