Young people caring for someone with cancer
Are you a young carer? You may not think you are. But if you’re under 18 and you spend any of your time looking after someone who is ill then you’re a young carer.
As a young carer, you might do extra things to help your family – stuff that your friends won’t necessarily be doing. Things like:
- making dinner
- washing the dishes
- cleaning the house
- doing the food shopping
- washing clothes
- looking after brothers or sisters.
You may also be asked to do things for the person who has cancer, like helping them get dressed, giving them their medicines or changing their bandages. You may comfort them when they’re upset, or be there to listen when they need to talk.
What does being a young carer mean?
Being a young carer can affect your life in many ways. It can make you feel different, but that’s okay. You may find that you can’t concentrate at school or college, and that you don’t have as much time to study. It could be hard to keep up with your friends. You may have to cancel plans to look after the person who has cancer. Sometimes it can feel like being a carer has taken over your life.
At least when I got to uni I knew how to work a washing machine!
Aphra, 18, who was a young carer
You may also be worried about what’s happening at home. You may feel angry with the person you’re looking after. You may feel neglected, and then feel guilty for feeling that way.
Being a young carer is a big responsibility. And that can sometimes be really hard. But positive things can also come out of the experience. Things like becoming closer to the person you care for, learning new skills and feeling more mature.
Looking after yourself
It’s very important to remember to look after yourself. You may feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. But you should only ever take on as much as you can handle.
Here are some of the things that helped us
- If you’re feeling stressed out, talk to someone. It could be a friend, a teacher or another family member. Or you may want to join a support group. Young carers’ projects can support you and give you time out from caring. The young carers’ workers can also talk to professionals and your school on your behalf. They have groups where you can meet other young carers. You can chill out and no one will ask you why you’re a young carer. Go to youngcarers.net to find one close to you. You can also chat with other young carers and with online support workers, who can give you information and advice.
- You may want to let your school or college know what’s going on. There may be times when you need extra help with your work, or when you need time off. Your teachers can only support you if they know what’s happening at home.
- Make time for yourself. Do something that takes your mind off the situation, like playing sport, spending time with friends, painting, or walking the dog. Remember, you’re still allowed to enjoy yourself and you don’t need to feel guilty for wanting your own life.
- As a young carer, if you don’t feel comfortable doing something (for example, helping someone go to the toilet), you can say no.
How can Macmillan help young carers?
We’ve created a handbook especially for young carers aged 12-18 which you can download, called A guide for young people looking after someone with cancer [PDF, 2.52 MB]. It’s based on the experiences of young people who have been there and covers some of the practical issues you might face when caring for someone with cancer.
It also gives information and advice on coping with feelings, looking after yourself, and where to find support.
If you’ve got any questions about cancer or caring you call our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00, freephone Monday-Friday, 9am-8pm. You don’t even need a reason to ring. Sometimes just talking to someone who understands can be the best way to get through a bad day.
Carers Trust has an online community for young carers to share experiences and to receive advice from qualified youth workers.