The important thing is to know you’re not alone. There is help and support available for young people who have a caring role:
You may find you’re dealing with lots of different health and social care professionals, whilst your family member is ill.
You may have questions, but feel shy about asking them. It can be handy to write your questions down in advance.
The healthcare professionals may not realise your caring role, so do mention it. They should answer your questions sensitively, and check that you are being supported too.
Practical support – carer’s assessment
If you’re caring for someone with cancer, maybe alongside your brothers and sisters, or parent, there may be times when you need help. There’s a great deal going on, routines change and there are practical issues to sort out.
By law, you’re entitled to a carer’s assessment. This can sound a bit scary, but its carried out to help you and the family. It’s carried out by a social worker, who will be aiming to keep you all well supported at home.
The Carers Trust have a guide which you can download - ‘Know your rights: support for young carers and young adult carers in England’ (PDF)). The guide has been written for young people between 8 and 25 years old.
Young carers and finances
You may find you’re having to help manage financial matters at home. Sometimes young carers may feel they have to temporarily give up college or university to help bring money in. If you’re worried about money, and the impact on the family, don’t bottle those worries up.
Talking about the money worries can be helpful, and you can be guided on what benefits and allowances are available to help. You may enlist the help and support of other family members and trusted friends, so you’re not carrying these concerns alone.
We have benefits advisors in our centres who can take time to listen and work through your concerns with you.
Young carers and emotional support
Looking after someone you care about who has cancer can cause feelings and emotions which feel difficult to manage. You may find you’re worried about them, when you’re away from the house, or they are in hospital. You may find you are becoming quiet or withdrawn, or angry, or tearful. Sometimes, you may find it hard to sleep, feel anxious or low in mood. It can be difficult telling people how you feel - you may want to protect your family from further upset.
Talking about your feelings can relieve the pressure, and help you realise what you’re feeling is natural. Talking to each other, within the family, can be a great relief. If you feel you can’t talk at home, perhaps find a close friend, or trusted colleague to chat to. It can help to talk to someone who has professional experience about cancer, carers and feelings. You could visit your GP, speak to a school/college counsellor for example.
At Maggie’s we provide emotional support in many ways. If you’re over 16, you can drop into one of our centres and talk through your worries and questions.
If you’re under 16, you are still drop in and talk to us, but you’ll need to come with your parent or guardian.
We have support for families, which you can ask about. We can also let you know where else you can get the emotional support you need.
Other organisations who can help
You may feel alone and isolated with everything that is going on. There are several organisations who also provide information, advice and support. The Carers Trust has put together a list of organisations you may find useful.
Various organisations organise family days, or days out for young carers. You can also find information and support online, through organisations such as riprap (for teenagers whose parent has cancer), or Canteen (for any young person affected by cancer, included young carers).