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In the latest of a series of blogs to mark Experience of Care Week, we hear from an NHS England Young Carer Health Champion:
I’m a member of Gloucestershire Young Carers – a forum of young adult carers across the nation who are supported by NHS England.
We come together to develop ways for young carers to be identified more easily and to help health and social care professionals support them.
I’ve not really had much experience with the NHS but have seen it impact on my family.
I care for my mum, stepdad and little brother. My mum has got epilepsy and kidney disease. My stepdad has got agoraphobia and mental health issues and my brother has got ADHD and has been classed as hyperactive.
I have to cope with physical conditions and mental ill health issues in my family. To be fair, I haven’t connected to any support in the NHS. Once we got given the first diagnosis we then supported ourselves. That works for us.
Working with other young carers has helped me formulate an idea of other people’s experiences. The NHS can provide all the support any young carer might need – they can help them, the carer themselves, or point them in the direction of where they need to go to get that support.
I think young carers know that but perhaps don’t know how to bring it up with their GP. I’m not sure why that is. I suppose I wouldn’t just go into my doctors and explain things unless I really had to.
When you normally make an appointment with your doctor it is because you’ve got an issue. But I don’t necessarily think of tagging a carer issue on at the end of the appointment. I don’t think that crosses anyone’s mind – to open up to a GP like that.
If I were to talk to a GP I would advise they keep an eye out for key signs of a possible carer and then break the ice by asking the question: “Is everything Ok at home, are you a carer?”
I never really looked into services such as the Children’s Society before working with NHS England. We then found a resource on the internet that shows your local young carers group or charity, for example.
With the other Health Champions we are creating a comic book that will be for young people who may not be identified as a young carer and also health professionals that work with young people
In my case, I engaged with Gloucestershire Young Carers as a self-referral – my mum was looking through the internet and came across GYC and things kicked off from there.
It has been a bit of a rollercoaster since then. First it is a shock that there are more people out there like you. What I’ve seen of people who have just been identified or have not yet been identified is that they are quiet and timid until they come out more in a group. It can be overwhelming at first when you hear other people’s stories. You don’t see yourself as unusual and to hear someone else’s story it sometimes hits home. That first period of time with a group is when you are assessing your place.
It made me feel happy that there were people I could relate to at Gloucestershire Young Carers. We have the same background. Then I just felt accepted.
- Experience of Care Week runs from 23-27 April and is a week of action that puts the spotlight on improving patient, family & carer, and staff experience; it is about supporting improvement in experiences of care in provider and commissioning organisations; together we can continue to enhance experience of care for all.
- For updates go see Twitter: #ExpOfCare
- Join NHS England and NHS Improvement in working to improve experiences of care for all: #WeCommunities Experience of Care Week website