By Jess Jones, Llanrwst
This week, from the 6th of June to the 12th of June, is Carers week. It’s all about raising awareness about carers and their experiences, and about celebrating these people and the work that they do. There are approximately 800,000 young carers across the UK, each with their own unique experience, and listening to their voices and what they have to say is important. Here, I want to share my own experience as a young carer, and how WCD young carers played an important part in my life.
I became a young carer at a young age, at around 6 or 7 years old. It was a sudden change, something that I had never prepared for or ever expected to have to do. My life as I knew it changed after my Grandad had a stroke, and I had to adapt fast to life as a young carer.
Things were very different. All of the things we used to do together didn’t happen anymore - there were no more trips to the park on a Sunday, no more holidays together with my grandparents like there used to be. Where other kids my age would go out and play after school, I would be with my grandparents, helping my Grandma with my Grandad whenever she needed. I knew that I was different to the rest of the children my age, and that I didn’t always get the same opportunities as the rest of them. Part of me felt left out, unable to join in with them, but another part of me felt proud that I was helping my Grandad, being there when he needed me.
During the early years, there wasn’t a lot that Grandad could do by himself. That meant me running numerous errands, like fetching things for him and helping him to use them when he couldn’t, making cups of teas, fetching jackets and putting them on him when he felt cold, and even pushing him in the wheelchair when Grandma would get tired, to name a few.
A few years after I first became a young carer, my brother came along, and was
diagnosed with Autism a few years later, needing some support along the way. I am very close with him, supporting him in his daily life, and my caring role often involves understanding the reasons that he becomes overwhelmed and working to reduce the impact of this. I am able to tell whether he has had a good or a bad day, and on bad days I communicate with him to help understand why he is upset and work with him to find ways to help calm him down and feel better.
I first became involved with WCD young carers when I was around 7 or 8 years old, when I was reached out to by the organisation. Since then, they have offered unmeasurable support. Over the years, they have offered frequent group sessions where I have been able to meet and interact with other young carers, providing respite breaks in the form of day trips and overnight residential trips, and one-to-one support whenever I need to talk about anything that is worrying me, or if I ever need support with my caring role. I am extremely grateful to WCD young carers for the support and opportunities that they have given me and other young carers like me and the difference that they are making to the lives of young carers through their work.
Being a young carer can be difficult, and we often go unnoticed by people. Many people don’t fully understand what it is to be a young carer, or the things that young carers go through in their day to day lives, and the effect it has on them and the people around them. That is why it is important to raise awareness about young carers and their experiences, not just during carers week, but during every week of the year.