Researchers estimate that 12% of Canadian youth are in caregiving roles. Likely there are more than that because young people may not feel comfortable talking about their family situation to others, and they may not even recognize themselves to be young 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. 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 caregiving has gone beyond what would normally be expected of a family member, and they could use some support.
There are as many different situations as there are young carers. Generally a young person takes on a caring role because someone in their family needs care and the adults are unable to provide it. Then, 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.
Nope. 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 could probably use some extra support balancing everyone’s needs and making sure things don’t get too stressful.
Right now, there aren’t a lot of services out there specific to Young Carers. The Cowichan Family Caregivers Support Society has a Young Carers Program that is pretty unique. In addition to providing one-on-one support to Young Carers when they need it, we work with the health care system, social services agencies and schools to educate people who might come into contact with Young Carers in how to support them and where to refer them. On this website, we have a list of general services available to youth in the community. Right now, we work with Young Carers in the Cowichan Tribes, and anywhere from Mill Bay to Ladysmith. Please see the page on What we do.