Being a young carer is challenging. One needs to have strength, patience and endurance in order to care for someone who is ill or disabled. I was a part-time carer for three years. I started my carer responsibilities when I was 12 years old. As the youngest in my family, I was left to care for my grandmother together with my mother after my older siblings moved out. Granny suffered from multiple sclerosis and dementia. She suffered from chronic pain 24/7 and had difficulty recognizing some of our family members. She also could not be relied upon to take medications correctly by herself anymore. She once accidentally took her night tablets twice and had to be hospitalized. After the terrifying incident, it became our job to give her the pills she needed at the appropriate time.
Initially, there were professional caregivers who helped Granny around the house. However, she felt uncomfortable around unfamiliar carers who knew little about her. A few of them insisted that we sent Granny to a nursing home as there was nothing much they could do to help her. They didn’t realize the pain and struggles that she went through during her physical rehabilitation. Even doing simple tasks such as getting out of the bed were chores for her.
The last carer did a horrible job in taking care of Granny. She failed to lift her out properly from the bathtub which caused her to slip and fall. The caregiver then left without saying a word. Granny was left lying on the floor, shaking in pain and fear. We rushed her to the hospital and the doctors diagnosed her with a mild paralysis. The paralysis resulted in the loss of her ability to walk. We then decided it was best to move her to our house and care for her ourselves.
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After that point, everything changed drastically. Getting Granny out of the bed at 6.30 am every morning became a routine. We would prepare her breakfast, give her medications and shower her all before I went to school. Mum would then take care of Granny for the rest of the morning. I took over my carer responsibilities in the afternoon and night when Mum went to work. Medical bills were piling up which left Mum with no choice but to take up two jobs to support us all. Granny couldn’t do basic skills, including things like brushing her teeth, combing her hair and feeding herself. My role would vary daily, and included cooking, cleaning, and checking on Granny’s state at regular intervals. Although it was physically taxing on us, we tried our best to give her the care she needed. I accommodated my studies in between my caring responsibilities. I would always do my revisions or homework after Granny was asleep or watching television. The tricky part was to meet my assignment deadlines. There were times when I’d to stay up late at night to complete my assignments.
As Granny’s condition deteriorated, I found it difficult to concentrate on my studies. I was worried that I might miss Mum’s phone calls when I was in school. Moreover, I felt guilty that I wasn’t assisting Mum at home. Granny’s condition turned from bad to worse when she had difficulty breathing one morning. We called the ambulance to bring her to the hospital. Sadly, the doctors couldn’t do much to save her. She passed away peacefully two days later. We were very saddened by her passing.
People always think that becoming a carer is a huge burden but I never looked at it that way. I took on the role of a caregiver willingly and out of love. As a carer, I had both good and bad days. I also kept my caring responsibilities a secret from my classmates because I was afraid of being judged by others. I wanted to lead a normal life as much as possible in school. Although I was a teenager, I didn’t have time for friends, outings and hobbies. Despite this, I didn’t feel that I’d missed out on anything – I was simply doing what I was used to.
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Taking up the role as a young carer made me become a more empathetic and independent person. I’ve learnt how to take responsibility and make the right decisions at a young age. More importantly, I learned to take good care of myself while caring for my loved ones. The experience of being a young caregiver is extremely rewarding and I’m glad to be able to form a strong bond with my family especially Granny before she left us.