I’ll have been a carer for 11 years this year. That’s half of my life as I turn 22 this year. Being a carer for my family for that amount of time has taught me a lot about myself and life in general.
Here are 11 things that being a carer has taught me:
- To remain strong. Being a carer is by no means easy; it’s hard. Caring for one person is difficult enough. Caring for five is much harder. But we aren’t here for a competition. Being a carer is hard no matter who you care for or how many people you care for. You’ve got to be strong so you can care.
- But it’s okay to take a break sometimes. When I was younger and as a teenager, I didn’t give myself a lot of time to relax from my caring responsibilities. I was always on “high alert” and still am now. I always will be. But now I can assess my caring situation and think, “I can have a break now.” Taking a break from family isn’t an easy thing to do or say but I need time for me too.
- You will make it to university. I am at university now. Some carers can’t attend university because of their caring responsibilities. My caring responsibilities are mostly social and emotional support so I’m able to go to university. Physical support has dwindled off, just a bit.
- Value what you have. Being a carer has taught me to value you have in terms of the people that are in your life. This is especially true in terms of my grandparents. Both my grandparents have changed dramatically in the past 11 years. They aren’t the same people due to their disabilities. I don’t take any of my family for granted, at all.
- Talk to people. I didn’t really talk to people about my caring responsibilities at school as I thought it was normal. I wished I had. I didn’t talk to professionals either as they never asked. Talking to people about being a carer helps people understand and means that people can support me. I told people at university and it has helped. It takes a weight off your shoulder.
- Get support when you need it. If you need support, then go and get it. There are local carers centres and national charities that can support you. Carers Trust and Carers UK are two charities that offer online support. But it relates to anything, not just being a carer.
- Keep a hold on the little things in life. My grandad taught me this recently. I did a post on him recently (which you can read here). If you keep the little things close and give them meaning, then you’ll learn to appreciate the smile that someone gives you as they pass you or the quick hug from a friend.
- Choose your words carefully. Words are powerful. When caring for my grandad, I have to use the right words. I have to use the right words when talking to my grandma. I always have to think about my words. Words can make things better or they can hurt. I’ve said the wrong words in anger (because it isn’t always happy, happy, smiles, smiles). You may be thanked for these words later like I was with my grandad.
- Ignore negativity. Negativity surrounds us in this world. It’s all around us. Some of our family members can be negative towards us but ignore it. It comes out of anger and frustration. They love you, deep down.
- Listen. I listen to my family members all of the time. It’s really important to listen so I can gauge how they are feeling. If I listen, then I can act accordingly. Just listen.
- You can do it. If I can do it, any carer can do it. It’s difficult, but it’s possible.
Are you a carer? What has being a carer taught you?