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Taking breaks as a young carer


As a young carer, taking a break can be really hard. It can be difficult practically to find a way to take some time off and still make sure that your family member is being looked after. But it can also be emotionally difficult, with many young carers telling us that they feel guilty for taking a break.

You should never feel bad for needing to take some time away from being a young carer. You are not weak – caring is hard work, and everybody needs time off sometimes. Plus don’t forget that you are still young, and deserve the chance to have some fun.

Taking a break is not only important for you, it is also important for the person you care for. Having regular breaks will increase your resilience meaning you are more likely to be able to keep caring for them in the longer term. And often the person you care for will be happy to know that you are taking some time to rest, relax and enjoy yourself. Just as you want to make sure they are looked after, they also want to make sure you are too.

You should aim to have regular short breaks, combined with some more occasional longer breaks. You should plan these in advance with the person you care for, so that you have something to look forward to but also so that they can prepare themselves for not having you around.

Why not take some time off to follow your interests and do things that make you feel good like listening to music, reading a book or watching a movie? Or you could practice a hobby like playing a musical instrument, writing stories, singing, baking or drawing. If you don’t already have a hobby, you could take one up. Just think about the sorts of things you like doing. Or if you have a friend who has a hobby you would like to try then you could ask them how to get started and whether you could even do it together.

It is also important to take breaks to spend time with your friends and have fun. If you sometimes find it hard to get out the house to see them, then you could also stay in touch with them by phone, text or email. You might find it difficult to make or keep friends if other people your age don’t always understand what it’s like being a young carer and the responsibilities you have. So it can help to make friends with other people who care for someone through young carers projects and support groups. Some young carers projects will even arrange for you to have a break from caring for things like evening events, days out and holidays.

Many young carers also find it helpful to have some time off by themselves, where they can just relax alone. If you find just sitting doing nothing difficult, you could try taking a long bath. Even just having a little bit of time to yourself can help to clear your head, recharge your batteries and make you feel so much better about everything.

One of the things that can hold young carers back from taking breaks is not knowing how to arrange someone else to come and take over their care for them.

The best place to start is to talk to other family members to see if they are able to cover for you while you have a break. They are likely to be happy to help. They may not even realise how much caring you are doing and that you need some more regular support from them. If someone who is going to be covering for you hasn’t done it before, it can help to write up some notes for them, especially about essentials such as what medication they need to give and how to use any equipment or aids.

If this option doesn’t work for you, then it’s good to look into arranging something more formal. This is often known as either replacement care or respite care. Short-term options could include a ‘sitting service’ using trained volunteers or accessing a local day centre. Longer-term care could either be provided by professional carers in your home or in a local care home. You may even be able to visit where the person you care for will be staying in advance and meet the people who will be caring for them. This can make you feel more confident about the care they will be receiving and allow you to relax more fully during your break, knowing they are in safe hands.

To arrange replacement care, talk to a parent or guardian, support worker, teacher or another adult you trust and they will help you.

Online Help and Advice

Visit our online support section where we have provided advice and guidance on a range of relevant topics to help you in your caring role.

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