This article was written by Young Carer Ambassador, Gabi, for Carers Week 2021.
I was fresh out of school ready to go travelling for sport, party, and have a normal teenage gap year. But that took a turn when my grandma Elaine who is 90 years old, had a serious stroke and got dementia. As a result, she would need someone to care for her 24/7.
Since both my parents are full time workers and my brother moved out, the responsibility fell into my hands. Staying at home, getting cooked meals and not having to pay rent was amazing, so I had no complaints. But it didn’t turn out to be that easy.
I loved being a Young Carer for my grandma, because I knew I was caring for someone who I loved and is family. Knowing that I am helping her, putting a smile on her face and also when dealing with her sassy moods. It allowed me to feel rewarded every single day.
I had amazing opportunities to share my story as well for National Carers Week in 2020, which grew my confidence and allowed me to meet other Young Carers like me. It brought me closer to my grandma, since I was with her 24/7…meaning she found out about my tattoos. She was not a happy grandmother.
Although being a Young Carer has its positives, it’s mentally and physically challenging. It took a massive toll on my social life. I became depressed, staying home all the time, not seeing friends nearly as much as I used to and feeling closed off to my friends and family. As much as I would have liked to spill the tea to my friends and tell them about what was going on in my head and at home with my grandma, I felt as though I couldn’t, because they weren’t dealing with anything similar and didn’t understand. I felt like I was carrying the weight of everyone’s extremely high expectations of me to do a good job every single day.
From being a Young Carer, I learnt how to deal with things on my own and also when to reach out for help when things became too much. This was a big self-improvement and helped me when I didn’t know how to help myself. It has shown me how much strength and resilience I have to keep going no matter what. Caring for my grandma has also made me realise my passion for not only wanting to care for my grandma, but others as well.
I’m passionate about advocating for Young Carers because programs such as Little Dreamers helped me meet new people who understood what it was like to be a Young Carer. Advocating this will bring awareness to adults and children so other Young Carers can have the opportunity to reach out to people, to help guide them through their journey.
Why do carers need support, you ask? In the simplest words, Young Carers receive support because they need the support. With all they do for not only themselves but the person or people they care for, it’s a lot.
I have recently stopped caring for my grandma which feels really strange. Not hearing the frame walker late at night strolling down the corridor, not being able to watch cute dog movies with her, missing out on all the sass she handed out to me and not having to wake her up and be told, “It’s too early to wake up, lemme sleeeep”. It feels like another life.
My grandma moved into a nursing home because she was becoming a danger to herself and it became too much to handle for not only me, but my parents as well. It was really hard for me to wrap my head around the thought of my grandma not being in the same house as me and not having to care for her anymore because that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 18 months. I had to change my lifestyle to be able to take care of my grandma and to help my parents, so they knew she was looked after by someone who truly cared for her. The thought of not having to look after her is really weird, but also a good thing because now I have the opportunity to start a new chapter of my life.
Being a Young Carer has added so much to my life, as it’s allowed me to grow and find my passion of caring for people. It will take a while to get used to the fact that I no longer have to care for my grandma, but it’s something that will always stay with me.