During this week it is Young Carer’s day and is an opportunity to highlight the experiences of some of our Student Carers. Kendall a third year Pharmacy student writes about some of her challenges and advice as a Student and Young Adult Carer.
In the summer before my third year at university my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It was a shock to the system to say the least but with my mum, brother and sister to also consider I had to step up to the plate and manage almost every aspect of my dad’s life. Before I knew it the summer was over I had to head back to university.
Being back at university and away from home changed how things worked significantly, sometimes I would feel guilty for having to stay at university rather than looking after my dad. It was a real challenge to balance study whilst still wanting to be there for him. One time I even face timed his consultant because I wasn’t able to make it to the appointment. It’s a compromise really, and it took me around a year of being a young carer and student to understand my healthy balance.
I didn’t always know that I was a young carer or what it even meant to be one. For me, looking after my dad, helping him get to hospital appointments and managing his medication was just normal.
However during my third year, I began struggling financially, particularly as I was visiting home so often, which for me is a two hour drive away and had started costing me too much. It was at this point that I found the help that I didn’t really know I was looking for. I was referred to Student Services for the University Hardship Fund, not only was I granted money from the fund but I was also referred to the specialist adviser for young adult carers. Knowing that there were people at university to advise people in situations like mine was very reassuring!
My life is now very hectic but manageable. I train with the University kickboxing team up to 4 times a week and go home most weekends to care for my dad. Fitting in university assignments can be challenging, however I found that asking for help from my department was very helpful. The university is very understanding of special circumstances and this definitely lessens the stress. I feel I have a full university life and still get to spend time with my family on the weekends.
It does of course come with sacrifices such as nights out and socialising in order to be able do this, but for me I knew what was more important to me, and that was going home on weekends.
Having been a student carer for some time my advice to others in this situation is ask for help. Even if you think you might not need it or that it might not be available, you might be surprised. It is the little things that can have such a big impact such as a one week extension on your work or financial support if you are struggling. It can seem daunting at first to share something so personal, however I found that once people were aware and I could talk about my struggles it was such a weight off my shoulders.
The university have dedicated staff to support students with caring responsibilities and have offered me support throughout so are a great place to start even if you don’t think you need help yet.