Becky first became involved with Signpost as an eight year old young carer. She is now juggling work alongside caring for her sister Hannah. Becky has kindly shared her story.
Life as a carer
I’m Becky, aged 28 and a carer for my sister Hannah who has Cerebral Palsy. Hannah can’t walk or talk, therefore needs everything doing for her like washing, dressing, feeding and carrying. As a sibling carer I have to help around the house and help get Hannah ready.
As a sibling carer, although my life isn’t 24 hours actively caring our minds can sometimes be at home with our siblings. Sometimes sibling caring is more emotional than physical, and it’s important for people to realise that’s ok.
Looking back, education has always been hard for me. Not being naturally smart, combined with the added pressure and anxieties of caring, I worried about my future career.
It’s true that young carers can struggle at school and college. We may sometimes have bad grades, low attendance and can even appear withdrawn but I urge employers to look at the skills we have.
We are more than grades. We have empathy, care, resilience, compassion, strength, understanding… and that’s just a few. I 100% know for a fact that I would not be a children’s nurse without those skills I have instilled in me.
When I got into university, I remember having a full-on meltdown about moving away from my family. Moving away from my comfort blanket, everything I know and the guilt of leaving my parents behind. Again, the skills I acquired through caring provided me with the strength and resilience to fight the pressure of university.
Caring is something I’ve always done and luckily I’m not the sole carer for Hannah. Even so, emotionally the juggling can be hard. I wouldn’t change it for the world, but I do need to take time for me.
I’ve been a young carer who has now followed through into adulthood. I now work as a children’s nurse and honestly feel that the skills I’ve learnt as a carer are the only reason I succeed at my job. I’ve been a nurse for seven years and have progressed into being a Sister/Charge Nurse.
I work 34 hours a week and Hannah will be with our mum whilst my dad and I are working. I now care for Hannah on my days off and take her off my parents to give them some respite; I generally look after Hannah every Wednesday and on some weekends.
My line manager is very supportive of my caring role. I’m very open about Hannah and our situation and I think confidence is key when it comes to speaking to your employer.
I definitely think more training is needed in the workplace when it comes to disabilities. Hannah and I have been doing disability awareness training for different workplaces and we’ve got great feedback. I think understanding is key to acceptance.
Looking to the future
I’m really hoping to be able to stay in work. As a sibling carer, now is my time to work and live life, and then when Hannah’s main carers are older it will be my time to step in.
I might be outnumbered on this one, but this past year has been a great down-time for us as a family. Work as a nurse has been busier and more stressful, but coming home knowing we can’t make plans to go out has given us that time to breathe. Unfortunately Hannah’s day care has all been stopped, which has thrown in more challenges but besides that it’s been a great time to get our priorities in check.
Eventually I’m hoping to reduce my hours to spend more time with Hannah so we can do more things together. I do feel lately that my priorities have changed. Caring will always impact on things we want to do, but it’s how we view that and the decisions we make that are important. In my job, to go higher up you need to be more available, which I can’t promise with being a carer but this won’t stop me trying to progress and raise awareness at the same time.
Support from Signpost
I’ve been a part of Signpost since I was eight years old. I went on lots of residentials and to the Thursday Young Carers group. They gave me my childhood and I will be forever grateful. I remember being on the Hebden Bridge Residential when I found out I was getting into university; I cried so hard because I was panicking about going. Everyone was so supportive and it was like being with my second family.
Signpost put me first when I felt second, and always gave me the love I needed. It’s an incredible charity and I owe everything to them.
Katy, Signpost’s Young Carers Project Manager, said:
To be in touch with Becky after all these years is a pleasure, we have seen her grow into a remarkable young woman with a fantastic career. Becky’s love and dedication to her sister is apparent in everything she does. Becky’s caring role has taught her many skills that she has taken through into adulthood, including patience, kindness, empathy and most of all a passion for ensuring that all people regardless of their disability are treated with respect and dignity.
Becky has given so much back to our service, supporting us with raising awareness and also offering invaluable peer support to other young carers.
As Becky says, being a sibling carer can often make you feel ‘second best’, therefore, as a service we have always tried to ensure that they have the time to themselves and also meet other young people who are in a similar situation.
Becky is an absolute credit to her family and we are so proud to still have her as part of our service.