My mum suffers from epilepsy, depression, non-alcoholic liver disease, diabetes and fibromyalgia. My brother suffers from a condition called foetal valproate syndrome which can cause a wide range of mental and physical complications.
I have been a carer for nearly all of my life. It is all I have really known so I would say it hasn't affected me too negatively as it has made the person I am today. The main difference to my caring role now is that my mum’s health is becoming worse but the three of us battle through together.
Until the age of around 17 I was not very open about my caring role to school friends or teachers but after I started sharing my story I felt proud to share it, because helping my family isn’t something to be ashamed of. When I was growing up I received support in the form of a local young carer service. They provided me with many activities and trips where I was able to make friends with people who understood my life and have someone to talk to who has been able to help me keep everything balanced. In terms of support in school it wasn’t until my last 2-3 years that I had support from teachers and that was only due to them knowing about the service. The teachers helped me so much in explaining to other teachers why I may not be on time handing work in or being distracted in class.
I have used this example of a typical day for me if I was at work, thankfully my employers are very supportive with anything I may need.
5.00 - Time to wake up and get organised for work. Once I am dressed it’s time to hang some washing out to dry during the day while I am at work. I take the dogs for a walk around the field and while I have my breakfast I organise my brother’s breakfast, cup and medication ready for my mum to give to him before he leaves. I check he has his packed lunch or money ready for whichever activity he is doing.
6.00 – Before I leave for work I check my mum is awake with her breakfast and any pain medication she may need.
6.30 – I arrive at work and start organising all the paperwork I will need for the day ahead.
7.00 – I clock in and start the checklist for all items I will need and start preparing the meeting rooms for that day's clients.
10.15 – I attend a brief but take my mobile with me so I can quickly text my mum and make sure she is ok and doesn’t need anything. If she does need something I will ring a family member when I have a few minutes spare and ask them to get it. Once brief is over its back to work and checking that all guests are happy.
11.15 – I start to prepare for lunchtime in the meeting area. When I go upstairs for any items I have missed I quickly text my brother to make sure he is ok. If he doesn’t reply I don’t worry as with his type of phone I know when he has read my message.
14.00 – After lunch it’s time to place the afternoon items out. It’s usually around now I will get a weekly text from the doctors reminding me of any appointments my family has or needs to make. I also check my phone again to make sure my mum is ok.
17.00 – Time to start clearing away and making sure everything is prepared ready for tomorrow.
18.00 - This is the average time that I finish work. When I leave, I ring to see what shopping needs to be picked up or medication needs ordering.
18.45 – I'm finally home and if my mum has had a good day, the evening meal will be made and some household jobs will be done. If she has had a bad day it’s a quick meal for everyone and a bit of cleaning done before I rest for the evening.
20.00- If I'm back at work the next day it's now bedtime for me.
As well as my own health needs I would say being a carer does also impact my mental health. The hardest thing I have found being a carer and being ill is saying “I need help”. It’s the one thing I say to people, "Don’t be scared to ask for help", but when it comes to myself the words just don’t come out. Thankfully I am getting better. Instead of saying “I am fine” all the time, I am actually admitting sometimes I do struggle.
Advice that I would give to other carers (of any age) is to speak out if you are struggling in any way. Please. From personal experience I know how hard it is, but when you say those first few words it gets better.