Life after being a young carer
When you stop being someone’s carer, it can be a big change and you may need time to adjust. It is important to bring some routine back into your life and look after your mental health.
Being a young carer is demanding and can cause many emotions. When you spent time caring for the person with cancer, you may have been too busy to deal with all these different feelings. Now, you may have more time to think and reflect. You may start to feel emotions you did not have time to recognise before.
It is important to look after your mental health. Try to focus on doing things you enjoy and that help you relax. You may have been putting someone else’s health first for a long time and it is important to look after yourself.
To talk with someone about how you feel, you can message, or call our Support Line free on 0808 808 00 00 (7 days a week, 8am to 8pm). You may also find it helpful to get support from other people who used to be young carers. For example, you could join a support group or an online forum.
If the person you looked after has died, you may be coping with difficult emotions. It can sometimes take a long time to accept what has happened. Lots of support is available and your GP can help if a low mood or anxiety are affecting your daily life. Eventually, you will start to feel less sad and more hopeful about the future.
A typical day as a young carer may have involved lots of different caring responsibilities including household chores. When you stop looking after someone, it can leave a gap in your life. You may feel you have lost your purpose and might not be sure how to fill your time at first.
It is a good idea to get back into a routine slowly. You may want to start spending more time with your friends or focus on your college or school work.
When you feel ready, you may enjoy trying a new hobby or learning some new skills. Carers UK have designed an e-learning programme called Learning for Living. This can help you recognise the skills that you have gained from caring and what you can do to make the most of them.
Some young carers put their skills to good use by becoming volunteers. Your caring role may have made you more emotionally mature than other people your age. Volunteering can be a great way to make a difference, have fun and meet new people. You can find volunteering opportunities across the UK at do-it.life.
You can also volunteer for Macmillan.
There may come a time when you consider moving away from home, or want to make decisions about your future. You may want to go to college or university, get a job or travel to new places.
If your loved one has long-term care needs, social care services may be able to help support them. Your local council or Health and Social Care Trust can assess what support you and the person with cancer need after you are 18. It is important that you have a chance to focus on your future goals.
If you plan to move away, you may feel guilty about leaving your home life. You may be worried about the cancer coming back or leaving people behind who have also lost a loved one. These feelings are natural, but you have your whole life ahead of you. Your experience with cancer should not stop you from doing all the things you want to.
Finding a job
If you are looking for a job, contact your local Jobcentre Plus (in England, Scotland and Wales) or Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or Jobs and Benefits office (in Northern Ireland). They can help you search and apply for jobs, prepare for interviews and claim benefits like Jobseeker's Allowance or Universal Credit.
The skills that you have learnt as a young carer will be valuable to a future employer. These may include being able to:
- communicate well
- organise your time
- deal with challenging situations
- cope under pressure.
The National Careers Service has a skills health check involving quizzes and activities. This online tool can help you identify your skills and which jobs might suit you.
The Mix is a website and support service for young people under the age of 25. It can help if you are looking for a job, thinking about moving out or planning future studies or your career.
You have been through a lot as a young carer and learnt many things along the way. Now it is time to let yourself be young and make the most of the opportunities you have.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our information for young carers. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Carers Trust. www.carers.org (accessed April 2020).
Carers UK. www.carersuk.org (accessed April 2020).
The Children’s Society. www.childrenssociety.org.uk (accessed April 2020).
Mind. www.mind.org.uk (accessed April 2020).
NHS. Being a young carer: your rights. Available from www.nhs.uk/conditions/social-care-and-support-guide/support-and-benefits-for-carers/being-a-young-carer-your-rights (accessed April 2020).
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Chief Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.
Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.