Who is a Young Carer?

I had never thought of my daughters, Isla age 9 and Florence age 5, as being young carers and I had never identified them to Carers in Herts (our local charity supporting carers), although their school did know about Lennon and that their home life was not ‘normal’.

It had taken me a long time to realise that I was a Carer myself. In my eyes we were a just ordinary family with an extraordinary member!

What is a young carer?

I thought you could only be a young carer if you were a child caring for their parent.

I was wrong.

The Carers Trust defines a young carer as ‘someone under 18 who helps look after someone in their family, or a friend, who is ill, disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol’.

My girls helped me look after Lennon, their brother.

‘A young carer might help out with practical tasks, such as housework or preparing meals. They may provide help with personal care such as getting washed and dressed. They might help out with looking after their siblings’.

Isla and Florence helped to get Lennon washed and dressed, they made their own breakfast in the morning. Isla would help make Florence’s packed lunch and help her to get dressed for school.

How did I not realise that my daughters were young carers?!

Maybe because they were born into their life, and they had never known any different.

They were born into their caring role.

After Lennon died I met Jodie Deards, the Carers Lead for East and North Herts NHS trust at Lister Hospital and winner of the ‘Commitment to Carers’ award at the RCNi Nurse Awards 2017.

Since meeting Jodie I have become much more aware of what defines a young carer and the impact caring has on their lives whilst they are growing up.

At a time when they should be out having fun with their friends, doing homework and worrying about what clothes they should wear, young carers are busy helping out with cooking, cleaning and laundry, and providing both emotional support and physical care.

The facts shocked me –

There are roughly 700,000 young carers in the UK – that equates to 1 in every 12 secondary school age children.

And 1 in every 12 of those young carers is likely to be caring for more than 15 hours every week.

The Family Action report β€˜Be Bothered’ written in 2012 and based on young carers and their education, found that most young carers are not known to be caring by school staff – Being a young carer can be a hidden cause of poor attendance, underachievement and bullying, and many young carers drop out of school or achieve no qualifications.

This in turn will have a huge impact on the rest of their lives.

Young Carers have dreams, ambitions and aspirations for the future just like every other young person and we should be making sure that they get the support and help that they deserve to achieve those dreams, ambitions and aspirations.

If you think you are a Young Carer or you know someone who might be, please visit The Carers Trust and find your local Young Carers support services – https://carers.org/search/network-partners

Jodie’s 5 top tips for Young Carers

1. Let someone know you have a caring role, such as your teacher.

2. Ask for help – nobody can cope alone.

3. Get a break and make time for yourself.

4. When you get tired or angry, step away and take a few minutes to listen to your favourite music.

5. You don’t need to do it alone – contact Young Carers in your county for support. If you are in Hertfordshire please contact Carers in Herts. http://www.carersinherts.org.uk/how-we-can-help/young-carers

For further information regarding Young Carers please visit –

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/social-care-and-support/young-carers-rights/?

https://carers.org/about-us/about-young-carers

Our first Christmas and New Year without Lennon

We made it through Christmas and New Year, and escaped only slightly scathed out of the other side and into 2018.

Christmas cards arrived and the sight of Lennon’s name missing from them all stung, tears pricked my eyes with the opening of each one.

You may be surprised when I tell you that only 3 people thought to mention that they knew Christmas would be hard for us this year and they would be thinking of us.

The rest all wished us ‘Happy Christmas’ and prosperous ‘New Year’ – How anyone could possible think that our Christmas would be happy and our New Year prosperous is completely beyond me!

Do you think if your child had died 5 months previous you would have a ‘Happy Christmas’?!

After Lennon’s Birthday and the deep sadness I felt in the festive period, Christmas Day was surprisingly going ok. I had made it out of bed in the morning and was dragged downstairs by 2 very excited girls desperate to see the delights that Santa had left behind during the night. Their excitement and enthusiasm carried me through the day, and I felt pleasantly surprised that Christmas Day wasn’t half as bad as I was expecting it to be.

Isla and Florence on Christmas morning.
All Florence wanted for Christmas was Lennon, and a pink car that she could drive.
Isla opening presents.

Until we sat down to eat Christmas Dinner with Ian’s parents and his uncle. The space where Lennon’s wheelchair sat in the dining room suddenly seemed so vast and empty. I felt sad, and that was the start of the downward spiral.

Someone let it slip that Ian had booked a trip to Paris over Mothers Day with his mates. He intentionally hadn’t consulted with me before he went ahead and paid for it and everyone knew except me. He had been hiding it from me with no intention.

Ian wouldn’t be home on Mothers Day. I will have to get through my first Mothers Day without my son alone.

I couldn’t believe he didn’t even pay me so much as a fleeting thought when he booked it.

That hurt.

I was already struggling with my emotions and the pain of dealing with the first Christmas without my eldest child, this revelation tipped me over the edge – like rubbing salt in a cut.

As soon as we arrived home I made my way straight to bed and didn’t surface until late morning on Boxing Day. I forced myself to get up and dressed for my girls.

Ian and I had a blazing argument.

He walked out.

He came home.

We went drove to my mums separately.

We ate dinner, opens presents and I went home.

I took the Christmas tree down and packed away our first Christmas without Lennon. I wanted Christmas over and done with. I didn’t want anymore Christmas without Lennon.

Our Christmas tree, full of memories.

Ian and I made up. Life’s too short to waste time arguing.

The day after Boxing Day we had tickets for Disney On Ice at The O2 – Lennon’s Christmas present that I had booked in the weeks before he died. We went every Christmas. Lennon wasn’t interested in presents so we spent money on days out instead – Lennon loved experiences and trips out and Disney on Ice was one of his favourites.

Lennon enjoying Disney on Ice, Christmas 2016.

We travelled down on the tube and the atmosphere wasn’t great. The magnitude of the day ahead weighing heavily on us all.

The girls throughly enjoyed it and we all spent most of the performance pointing out the little things Lennon would of loved and talking about how much we missed him not sitting amongst us, shouting and arm flapping.

At the end of the performance, snow floated down and covered us, butterflies flew above the ice and we knew Lennon was right there with us.

The butterflies in the Disney on Ice performance.

The days before New Year were mainly long and dull. Ian went back to work and I didn’t have the energy or the enthusiasm to take the girls anywhere. I felt a heavy fog take over me with a New Year imminent.

New Year has been a sticking point with me since Lennon was born – celebrating a New Year with a life limited child, to me felt completely out of the question. The approaching year could be Lennon’s last – why on earth would we want to celebrate that?!

This time the New Year brought a new torment with it.

2017 knew Lennon.

Lennon knew 2017.

Lennon was alive in 2017.

2018 would not know Lennon.

Lennon would not know 2018.

In 2018, Lennon died last year.

That hurt me.

A lot.

After spending days moping around not getting dressed and crying, by New Years Eve I had realised that I really did need to get out and make some attempt to save my drowning self.

I even put some make up on.

We took the girls for dinner at ASK and then went to the local pub for a few drinks with friends.

Florence enjoying ASK!

We had the girls with us, so no plans to stay out and see the Year change – I knew that would be a step too far for me. So we left the pub at 22:30 with Florence and ventured home. Isla wanted to stay with her friends, so we left her behind.

On the 1st of January 2018 I woke up strangely relieved. Relieved that it was all over. But still sad. Sad that Lennon died last year. Sad as the hard, cold realisation that time moves on hit me yet again.

I don’t want Lennon to be left behind in 2017.

Forever in 2017, Forever 10.

Lennon and Mummy x