Researchers estimate that 12% of Irish young people are in carers.
It’s normal for young people to contribute to household chores and family responsibilities. However, a young carer takes on considerably more of these responsibilities and tasks. They care or help to care for somebody in their family with an illness, a disability, a mental health issue or who has an alcohol or other drug problem. When the duties of caring begin to impact other aspects of a young person’s life, like school work, time spent with friends, extra-curricular activities like sports and clubs, or affect their well-being, stress levels and mental health, then their caring role has gone beyond what would normally be expected of a family member, and they could use some support.
Generally a young person takes on a caring role because someone in their family needs care. In order to keep the family going, a young person takes on some of the caring responsibilities such as looking after younger siblings, cleaning the house, shopping, preparing meals, helping an adult with feeding, dressing, grooming and other personal care, administering medications, etc.
Some examples of situations where this happens involve a family member with mental illness such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or Alzheimer’s disease, addiction to drugs, alcohol or gambling; chronic illness such as heart disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, arthritis or cancer; disability that restricts the mobility or ability to care for themselves or others due to an accident, injury or physical illness, developmental disability, or terminal illness.
No. There are many different types of families and ways to be in them. An illness or disability can strike a family at any time and families try to survive in the best way they can. Sometimes this means that a young person has to step up to take on greater responsibilities. Being a young carer doesn’t mean that your family is messed up, it just means that you and your family might need some extra support so things don’t get too stressful.
Right now, there aren’t a lot of services out there specific to young carers. Our Young Carers Programme supports young carers in a number of different ways but the level of support provided depends on where the young carer lives and whether Family Carers Ireland has a centre nearby. Please visit the support section for more information.