Image by/from Produnis
Many of the world’s elderly are cared for by members of their family, friends or other good Samaritans. Inevitably, that means that carers are often unpaid, and almost always younger than the person they look after.
Let’s find out a little more about young carers, with some discussion from Wikipedia with our commentary below.
A young carer is a young person who cares, unpaid, for a person who has any type of physical or mental illness, physical and/or mental disability or misuses substances such as alcohol or drugs. The age of a young carer is different between countries. In Australia a young carer is a person under the age of 25 years old.
While Australia defines a young carer as someone responsible up to the age of twenty five, other countries have no such definition. In other countries, such as the UK, the term is used for those offering help up to the age of 18, so generally refers to children looking after parents.
The roles taken on by a young carer are exhaustive and are carried out often behind closed doors on top of the normal pressures of a young persons life. The care they give may be practical, physical, and emotional. Responsibilities may range from providing practical support such as helping to cook, clean or wash, giving personal care, emotional support, providing medication or helping with financial chores.
The person they care for may be a parent, a partner, their own child, a sibling, another family member, a friend or someone who does not necessarily live in the same house as them.
When carers are of school age, especially those looking after parents, it will inevitably impact on their education. In countries where schooling is commonplace, this will typically mean days absent, with a significant proportion of lessons missed.
There are support programs to assist young carers both emotionally and financially with day-to-day tasks and making decisions. These programs offer face-to-face counselling, online programs, and phone helplines.
There are estimated to be around 272,000 young carers in Australia. Each Australian state and territory has a carer association that assists unpaid young carers and can be reached on 1800 242 636. The Young Carers Network is a national website that provides young carers with information on their local support services, helpful resources and a platform to share their story and opinions.
Again, while Australia is well documented, the problems associated with young carers apply around the globe, with the same issues cropping up time and time again.
There are estimated to be around 700,000 young carers in the UK which is approximately 1 in every 12 teenagers and around 2 in every classroom. Some support programmes for young carers have been cut due to austerity. The amount of support young carers get varies from area to area and is subject to a postcode lottery.
The issue in the UK is becoming more recognised, with awareness efforts appearing in places including doctors surgeries and libraries to advise those affected how to seek additional help and support.