Last week, on October 31st 2018, the 7:30 Report featured the story, “The incredible reality for young carers,” interviewing two young carers with different caring roles and family types.
The ABC news network has been sharing stories about young carers since 2003, raising important awareness. Although there are more than 40,000 young carers in Western Australia alone, the term “young carer” is still unknown in many schools and households.
“The incredible reality for young carers” shares two young carer’s stories. Jye Cabrera, 16, is in a single parent family caring for his Mum – he is the primary carer. Sarah Yulcu, 19, cares for her Mum and two brothers. Although her Dad lives at home, he is often away travelling interstate, so Sarah is often also the primary carer.
The video starts with Jye courageously sharing his story with his classmates; that his mother has anxiety, depression, was cured for a liver disability but now has a heart condition. He says that before this, only about six people knew that he was a young carer. Like many young carers, Jye’s caring role impacts his education. Currently in year eleven, a crucial time for high school students, Jye says that he misses 2 to 3 days of school some weeks. Even though he has tried to explain why to his teachers a lot of them don’t understand. He's also experienced bullying; other boys in his school have called him a “wuss” because of the care he provides for his Mum. However, Jye believes that being a carer makes him a better person.
Sarah’s story highlights the poverty that can come from growing up in a family where finances are restricted and many family members have extra health care needs. Sarah’s Mum has a mental illness and her two brothers have Autism Spectrum disorder – one brother also has XYY syndrome. The syndrome causes him to behave violently, lash out, causing damage to the walls and even hitting his family.
Yeah, so we live in first world country, third world conditions, I'd call it.
Sarah is also studying speech pathology, working part-time as well as often being the primary carer for her family. Her role impacts her emotionally and she often feels resentment and even hate at the way that her caring role impacts on her life. Caring for her family has also impacted on her studies and she fell behind last semester.
View Jay and Sarah’s stories here.
Hearing both Jye and Sarah’s stories is important because it highlights the similar impacts that being a young carer can have, even though their lives are very different. Being a carer can have financial, educational, emotional, physical and social impacts and for young carers, this adversity can affect their future opportunities and relationships. With support from friends, family, school and the wider community, though, these impacts can be lessened and being a carer can even have positive influences in a young person’s life.
The week before “The incredible reality for young carers” aired, the ABC published a story called “Roles reversed: Being 11 and helping your dad who has dementia” about Jacob James, who cares for his father who, at 60, has younger onset dementia.
Although it is true that Jacob is now caring for his father and taking on the extra responsibilities that come with being a young carer – he organises his Dad’s breakfasts and the family’s lunches for the day - some of the positive impacts of being a carer are also present in the video.
The warmth and love that the family feel for one another is obvious and Jacob has a deeper understanding and acceptance than many eleven-year old boys might have otherwise. Both Pete and Cathy, Jacob’s mother, are aware and appreciative of Jacob’s contribution to caring for Pete. Cathy says:
He's having to say now, to his own dad, 'Dad, it's okay. Don't worry about it'. Some days it blows me away how a little boy can do that.
There is also a sense of community around the family. Pete is a draftsman and his employer has kept him on. Cathy has taken an empowered approach and is involved in charity work raising awareness of dementia.
View Jacob’s story, published on October 22nd , here.
Community and school support can make a big difference in the lives of young carers and their families. The first step though, is awareness; that a young person is a carer, that there is often more than one carer in a family and of the impacts that being a carer