How To Cope With Caring For A Sick Parent

There comes a time in everyone’s life were we have to look after our parents. The very people who brought us into the world will need our support. This task is never going to be easy. Seeing our role-models, number one supporters and people we love most, ask us for help, is heart-breaking.

Generally speaking, this natural phenomenon occurs when our parents are elderly. However, what happens when trauma strikes young parents? Well for starters their children are still children.  As a young person you rely on your parents much more, not just financially, but mentally too. Being a teenager at school is no easy task, with harsh social expectations, exam pressures and peers to contend with, you really need a parent to guide you. Growing up is a crucial stage in a person’s development. Our youth is the beginning of us learning about the world we live in, ourselves and how to behave in society. Consequently, being young and having a sick parent will inevitably affect us as people. It is hard to be a normal kid, teenager or young adult when your days are filled with caring responsibilities.

At the age of 17 my mother was diagnosed with a spinal tumor. Five years on I am finally able to reflect how this has affected me. Indeed our journey is not over. I still care for my mum as best as I can. However, now I do so with a healthier attitude. Here is how:

It is not only the patient who suffers – Seeing someone you love, go through extreme pain, discomfort and trauma causes YOU suffering. While initially I fixated on my mum’s pain and how bad this was for her, later on I realised it was bad for me too.  As soon as I recognized the fact that it was difficult for me, I could address this and look after myself, bringing me onto my next point…

You cannot look after anyone else if you do not look after yourself – You are just as important as the patient. It is impossible to effectively care for someone when you are not looking after yourself. Times when I was hungry, tired or upset were the times when I argued with my mum, made matters worse and was unable to help her in the ways she needed.

Talk to others – This is so much easier said than done, but I can honestly say it is the best way to look after yourself. It is beyond useful to talk to others in the same situation as you. In my local area there is a careers community and charities which provide telephone and face to face counselling (all of which are so helpful).

Being a young carer is not something you can choose, opt out of or switch off from. If your parent is sick, that is just the way of the world. There is however, ways to cope with it and move on. There is more help than you realise out there. Talk to teachers and friends at school. Organise charity events to raise money and go give someone a big hug. Just please whatever you do, try not to bottle everything up inside.

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