To mark Carers Week, 17-year-old Carina describes a typical day balancing college with her role as a carer for her mother
Where to begin? I guess let’s start with a little about me. My name is Carina and I am 17 years old. I attend college, where I’m doing a health and social care national diploma course.
My mum has depression, anxiety, a few medical conditions and she also self harms. I live with my mum, dad and my little sister who is 12 years old.
My dad leaves for work before we wake up, so my day begins with getting up nice and early with my little sister, making sure she is dressed, has all she needs, and is ready for school. I make sure she crosses the road safely.
After I’m sure my sister is off safely, I wake my mum up and help her get dressed. After that, I pop upstairs and get dressed myself. I always keep an eye on my mum’s mood, making sure she is happy before I leave for college. If my mum’s feeling low, I stay at home.
I love my college course, but it’s hard being out of the house because I worry the whole time I am there, thinking about my mum and whether she’s safe. If I don’t go to college because my mum’s feeling down, I take the chance to tidy up and do any jobs around the house that need to be done. These include washing the clothes, hoovering and walking the dog.
Once everything is done I sit down with my laptop and try to do some course work. If my mum is up in her room on her own I go upstairs and sit with her to make sure she does not feel alone and isn’t harming herself. Once it hits 3.15pm my sister is home from school, knocking on the door so I run downstairs to ask her how her day has been and make her change her clothes and get ready for dinner.
Then my favourite time of the day begins – dinner. I love to cook. At this time of day, I’ll be looking through the fridge and freezer to find a meal to put together, making sure everyone will enjoy it, which is difficult because my dad and little sister are really fussy. I remember when my sister was little we had to put her dinner on separate plates so her foods didn’t touch. Thankfully, she’s grown out of that now.
Once I’ve cooked dinner I get my sister to lay the table. We all sit down as a family to eat. This is the best part of my day, talking about our days with each other and smiling. Once dinner is done we flip a coin to see whether I or my mum washes up.
My evening normally starts with the BBC news and then I go upstairs to entertain my sister or, if it’s a Friday, I volunteer at a youth centre as a youth worker. On Tuesday evenings I go to a young carer’s project with my sister, which I love to pieces. It’s really the one evening I have for myself when I can relax and have a laugh. I have also made some fantastic friends there.
I struggled through school, being bullied severely and cutting class. In years 7, 8 and 9 I really did not like school – my attendance was low and I got in a lot of trouble. Things got better in year 10 though, when my head of year helped me get in with a group of new friends. Long story short, they changed me, they made me feel one of them, and from then on my attendance grew and I left school with 11 GSCEs which I am very, very proud of.
I think the most difficult thing about being a young carer is the worry that you constantly walk around with and always feeling tired. I’ve been taking care of my mum and family since I was six, but I didn’t actually know I was a “young carer” until a few years ago, when I found out about the young carers project and started getting support there.
The Princess Royal Trust for Carers currently helps 25,000 young carers, aged five to 18, through its 85 specialised young carers’ services from Orkney to Devon.
(illustration: Maria Smedstadt/IEye Candy)
For more on Carers Week
What do you think? Join the debate on CareSpace
Keep up to date with the latest developments in social care Sign up to our daily and weekly emails