Young carers: How to look after yourself

Last reviewed on 18 March 2021.

If you’re looking after (or helping to look after) someone in your family who can’t care for themselves, the coronavirus outbreak might be bringing added stress. You might be worried that the person you care for could be at risk of getting the virus. You might feel frustrated if you still have to go to school or isolated if you’re at home all the time. And you might find that you need to provide more emotional support to your family than usual.

A survey by Caring Together found that 80% of the young carers it supports feel more alone than usual and that more than half aren't able to take a break from their caring responsibilities.

It’s particularly important that you look after yourself and know where to go for help at this time. As London’s digital mental wellbeing service, Good Thinking has put together the following advice for you.

  1. Stay connected

With your responsibilities as a young carer, it’s understandable that you might be worried about yourself and your family. Talk to someone you trust, like a friend or a sibling, about how you’re feeling. Don’t bottle things up.

As you can't socialise with your friends in the usual way, make the most of phone calls, texts, emails and video chat to stay in touch. Perhaps you could draw up a schedule for when you’ll speak to people so you know you’ll have at least one chat a day?

The Mix runs a free helpline for under-25s on 0808 808 4994 or you can chat to their team online. If you’d find it helpful talking to other carers, Mobilise runs a virtual cuppa for carers at 4pm every day.

  1. Get the facts

If the person you care for is considered to be extremely vulnerable to coronavirus (for example, if they have certain underlying health conditions), they might previously have been asked to stay at home and avoid any face-to-face contact for 12 weeks. This was called 'shielding'. The Government website contains the most up-to-date information on shielding.

The NHS is currently offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus. Find out more on the NHS website.

  1. Make a plan

As a young carer, you should have an emergency plan in place in case you get ill and can’t look after your relative for a while. In this situation, replacement care can be sorted out for you.

Your plan should include contact details for other family members and friends, information about your relative’s GP and pharmacy, details of any medication they take, information about any care and support services they receive and details of any mobility or behavioural challenges. Give some trusted relatives and friends a copy of this plan.

Carers UK provides lots more useful advice about writing an emergency plan.

  1. Ask for help

Your local authority can provide support – if you have a social worker or you’re in touch with your local young carers service, contact them. You can also talk to one of your teachers or your school counsellor.

You can also call Carers Direct on 0300 123 1053 or Carers UK on 0808 808 7777 for advice.

If you need help getting essential supplies, such as food and medicine, see if a relative or neighbour can get involved. You can also contact your Local Authority for assistance. There might also be a COVID-19 Mutual Aid group in your local area that could help with this or you can contact NHS Volunteer Responders to see what support they can offer.

Good Thinking can recommend NHS-approved apps to reduce anxiety, lower stress, improve sleep and boost mood. If you think your relative would find this useful, go to our home page.

Contact your GP if you’re worried about your health or the health of the person you’re looking after – they might offer you a phone or video appointment if they are trying to reduce visits to the surgery. Call NHS 111 if you or your relative has symptoms of coronavirus, such as a high temperature or a new, continuous cough, and call 999 in an emergency.

  1. Look after yourself

When you’re caring for someone else, it’s easy to forget to look after yourself. Try to eat healthily and stay hydrated. As you might not be able to do all your usual sports and other activities at the moment, figure out ways to stay active at home, such as doing online workouts. You’ll find lots of inspiration on the NHS Live Well website, Sport England website and in Good Thinking’s advice about how to maintain a healthy, balanced diet.

While you’re at home, you might have time to learn something new – like cooking some recipes you’ve not tried before – or simply take a bit of time to relax and watch your favourite box set. BBC Newsround and BBC Bitesize have some great tips.

Finally, make sure you get enough sleep while all this is going on. Switch off your phone and other devices in the evening so you can unwind before you go to bed. Read Good Thinking’s advice about sleeping better.

Useful websites

Action for Children

Barnardo's

BBC Radio 1 (Life Hacks podcasts about anxiety, loneliness and other wellbeing topics)

Caring Together

Carers UK

Carers Trust

Childline

My Mind TV (videos) (click Explore, select Children and Young People, click Apply)

MYTime YoungCarers

NHS (help for young carers)

Rethink Mental Illness

The Children's Society

The Mix

YAC Book

YoungMinds

Check out our advice for children and young people and our article about how to handle uncertainty. You might also find our podcasts about mindfulness, sleep and healthy screen/life balance useful and you can download Feeling Good Teens, Move Mood, Student Health App and other NHS-approved wellbeing apps for free on Good Thinking.

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