Thriving as a Young Caregiver
Are you aged between 6 and 25 and supporting someone close to you? If so, you are a young caregiver!
Supporting a loved one can take many forms, for example:
- Helping your grandmother take her Alzheimer’s medication
- Taking on household chores and helping your siblings with their homework because your parents are taking care of your autistic sister
- Helping your father put on his prosthesis and doing the grocery shopping for him
- Providing psychological support to your older brother who suffers from schizophrenia
- Accompanying your mother to meetings to interpret discussions in sign language
Do you want to make a difference so that young people like you get more support? Join a working group to meet other young people in your situation, to share your experience and to make things happen. By talking about it, it will be possible to develop a support network for young caregivers like you.
You can even anonymously inform teachers so they can better understand who young caregivers are and how to support them. Fill out this form to share your story.
Do you wish the people around you had a better understanding of what you are going through? Share this page with people who are significant to your role as a young caregiver. They’ll find plenty of advice on how to better listen to you and support you.
Find Resources and Share Your Load
Is there someone you know (a teacher, a friend, a nurse) that you trust and that you can confide in about what you are going through? Let the person know what you need from him or her (e.g., to listen to you without judging you, to keep your situation confidential, to help you find resources, to accompany you in your dealings with a teacher, etc.). You don’t have to spill the beans, it is up to you to choose what the person needs to know. Many times, these people will pay attention to your situation and want to help you, but they don’t really know how. Most people know little or nothing about the reality of young caregivers, so don’t hesitate to pass on this guide.
Although there are no organizations in Quebec that support young caregivers, you can contact youth organizations or the youth centre near you. There is also the TEL-JEUNES help line, which you can reach by phone, text messages, chat and e-mail
Being a Young Caregiver: A Great Challenge!
Your help is essential to your family. You help them through complex situations that can be created by physical or mental illness, aging, disability or addiction.
But it’s not easy every day. Sometimes you feel that it’s unfair because you’d rather be able to focus on your friends, studies or favourite sports. Sometimes you are sad to see the impact of this health situation on your family or yourself. Sometimes you wish you could do more. You may also worry about how you are doing in school, or about the health of the person you love.
All of these emotions are normal and are also experienced by most young caregivers, which is almost a quarter of all young people. Being a young caregiver is not always easy, and often you may feel helpless.
But know that if you get support, you can get a lot of good things out of being a young caregiver, such as feeling super helpful, building strong family bonds, developing independence and a sense of responsibility, being better prepared for adult life, and feeling more compassion and empathy for others.
If you attend medical appointments with the person you are helping, know that you have the right to ask questions about their treatment and illness. Some people won’t listen to you or look at you, but you’re something of an expert on what’s going on in your home, and your knowledge is important for your loved one’s health. It takes courage to speak up, but with practice, and sometimes with the support of a second person, you can make a difference.
Are You a Parent of a Young Caregiver?
You may feel guilty about your youth’s situation. Know that no one chooses to be ill, disabled or aging. Young caregivers act out of love for their family members: value their contribution and their good deeds.
To support them, listen with empathy, be mindful of the possible impact of caregiving on them, and help them explore the positive aspects of caregiving in their lives. If you are the person being cared for, talk to health care professionals about your youth’s responsibilities so that they can receive more care. School is important to them, you can help them talk to their teacher to explain their situation, find support solutions, or get accommodations. You can also arrange for respite periods where your young caregiver can see friends and take part in recreational activities. If you are a caregiver yourself, find out about the help that local organizations can provide.