Carers can be of all ages and from all backgrounds. Many people won’t see themselves as being a ‘carer’, they just see it as what they need to do for their parent, friend or loved one.
Laura lives with her husband Dave and their two young children, Henry and Lizzie. We spoke to Laura about her family’s caring situation, the support they’ve received from The Carers’ Centre, and her epic fundraising plans this June.
Both Laura and Dave have suffered from debilitating illnesses and together with their two amazing children, Henry aged 6 and Lizzie aged 9, the family support one another through challenging times. Like nearly 800,000 children in the UK, Henry and Lizzie are young carers. They show compassion and maturity beyond their years to help their mum and dad.
David, a Royal Marines veteran, has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and experienced a mental breakdown during the pandemic in early 2020 whilst Laura suffers from Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). Affecting only a tiny percentage of women during their reproductive years, PMDD is an acute form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and the symptoms can have a seriously debilitating impact on someone’s life, as Laura knows only too well.
“The mental and physical symptoms from PMDD can sometimes be completely overwhelming. Prior to my treatment of a chemically induced menopause (which I have been having for a year), PMDD used to occur every two weeks of my four-week menstrual cycle. The main symptoms for me include severe fatigue, inability to concentrate/brain fog, difficulty maintaining relationships and avoiding conflict, severe anxiety, depression and suicidal ideations. Living with PMDD is be tough for the whole family, however with significant lifestyle adaptations and the love and support of my family, I am now able to do more than ever before.”
Added to this, Laura has also battled with severe eczema and was diagnosed with a skin picking disorder and PTSD herself because of topical steroid withdrawal – a serious condition related to the use of steroid creams needed to treat her eczema.
“It’s been a horrendous illness. At one point, the eczema became so severe that it was so painful I couldn’t put shoes on and my hands were both bandaged.”
Despite such difficulties, Laura and the rest of the family have a strong desire to help others in similar situations.
“At first I felt a sense of shame due to my illnesses,” remembers Laura. “Then I came to realise the best approach for me was to be open and help others on their own journey.”
Young carer struggles
Due to their parent’s health conditions, children Henry and Lizzie have stepped up and taken on extra responsibilities at home at a very early age, including looking after each other when their mum and dad are unwell, and helping with little chores around the house. In spite of their young age, they both can feel there are positive aspects in being young carers.
“I’ve found that being a young carer has taught me how to look after my family when times get hard,” said Lizzie. “I’ve learnt how to look after my sister when mum and dad are poorly,” added Henry.
In contrast to the positives, being a young carer can also bring up difficult emotions for children, ranging from anger and frustration to guilt and loneliness. A recent survey by The Carers Trust revealed that a third of young carers said their caring role resulted in them either ‘always’ or ‘usually’ feeling ‘worried’, ‘lonely’ or ‘stressed’. It’s well known that children with caring responsibilities at home can often miss out on important aspects of their young lives.
“It can be tough at times as they can’t usually do the things other kids their age can do, like meeting up regularly with friends or going on a trip to the beach as a family,” Laura explained. “We’ve noticed they have more complex emotions compared to other children.”
Support from The Carers’ Centre
The pandemic and lockdowns exacerbated the challenges for the family. Laura explained that at this point, Lizzie and Henry were referred to The Carers’ Centre by a support worker at their school.
Even with the limited face-to-face support available at the time, the children started to take part in activities on Zoom designed to help young carers take a break and meet with other children with caring responsibilities.
“The help we’ve had from The Carers’ Centre has been unbelievable,” commented Laura. “Even during the pandemic, someone would drop off all the things needed like cooking ingredients and craft packs so the kids could participate in online activities from our home.”
Since Covid restrictions have eased, the family have also enjoyed special activities run by The Carers’ Centre as a family, including the Bath Philharmonic music workshop held over the Easter holidays. Laura immediately noticed how much the breaks have helped the children.
“The activities are great fun. It’s provided the kids with opportunities they wouldn’t normally be able to do, and they have made some lovely friends who they can share their experiences with. The mental health and wellbeing support for the children has been amazing.”
Laura’s views are also shared by the children. “The activities are fun, they give us a break from caring and a chance to talk to other children and the lovely staff in the young carers’ team. It’s somewhere to make new friends that understand, and we can help them with their problems too,” said Lizzie and Henry.
The support received by the young carers’ team has inspired Laura to take on an epic challenge this June to raise funds for The Carers’ Centre. As someone who finds that regular exercise helps with her wellbeing, Laura will don her running (and cycling and swimming!) gear and take on the Westonbirt Sprint Triathlon in June 2022.
“I couldn’t think of a more worthy cause to support. We’ve experienced first-hand the impact The Carers’ Centre has had on our family and I feel inspired to do this challenge to help other families like ours.”
If you’d like to make a donation, you can do so via Laura’s JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lozzapalmer
Do you know a young carer like Lizzie or Henry? To find out more about how we support young people and their families, please visit: https://www.banescarerscentre.org.uk/advice-and-support/services-for-young-people
Join our community
If you look after someone, we are here for you. By joining The Carers’ Centre you’ll meet people who understand what you’re going through, and will listen to you. You will also gain access to a range of fantastic and free services to support you.