Lucinda and her mum, Meryl
Gifted student Lucinda Childs has been caring for her mother for as long as she can remember.
But it was only when she reached the age of 16, and noticed her friends weren’t rushing home after school to care for their mums and dads that she realised she may be a little different from her peers.
Now 18 and studying towards a career in teaching, Lucinda, of Rhydyfelin, has spoken out about her life as a Young Adult Carer as part of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Carers’ Week 2014.
And she hopes that by sharing her experiences, and promoting the support and services that are on offer, she can reach out to others and ensure they receive a helping hand also.
Lucinda lives in Rhydyfelin with her younger sister, SammyJo, 12 and her mum, Meryl, 36, who has a complex mental health illness that can leave her unable to leave the house for days on end and completely reliant on her oldest daughter for everything.
As a result of Meryl’s illness, Hawthorn High pupils Lucinda always has, and remains, the “head” of the household, in charge of all tasks from shopping and bills to cleaning and making sure her little sister does her homework.
Lucinda says she has never ever known any different and works hard now to not only support and care for her mum, who is very frustrated by the impact her mental illness has on her life, but also protect SammyJo from the situation.
She says her caring role is demanding, but has also allowed her to enjoy an incredibly special and close bond with her mum, who she says she “loves more than anything in the world” and who has struggled to overcome her health issues in order to give her girls a “happy childhood”.
Lucinda, who is studying A Levels in Maths, Physics and Biology, as well as a Welsh Baccalaureate, with a view to attending university and becoming a maths teacher, said: “I have cared for mum for as long as I can remember and really didn’t know any different.
“I had such a happy and loving upbringing with my mum, who is my best friend, and never thought we were any different from any other family until I reached about 16, and realised none of my friends were rushing home from school to care for someone.
“That made me realise I may be different, so I sought advice from the Young Adult Carers Team and I would thoroughly recommend anyone in the same situation as me also makes contact and sees what is on offer.
“I would never change my position for the world. I love my mum, I love my family and I am really glad I have the opportunity to provide care for my mum. She suffers so much and she hates the fact she cannot do the things she wants to do – for herself and for me and my sister.
“Yes it does mean I have missed out and may continue to miss out socially, but I have gained a whole level of experience and responsibility that I would not want to change.
“I am certain there are many young people like me in Rhondda Cynon Taf who are caring for a parent or a sibling without even realising it. I would urge them to make contact with the support team and see what is out there.
“I still care for mum as I always have, but now I have support. I attend a group regularly, which is good as we are all the same age, so can chat about caring, support each other or just have some fun socially. We link up outside of the support group locally, or via social media.
“There are also away days and activity days which have been great fun, a chance to meet new friends and offer a little respite. When you are a carer, you can miss out on experiences other people our age take for granted, and the support service allows us to access those social times.
“There is also support with health, finance, budgeting, extra-curricular activities and more.”
There are hundreds of people of all ages in Rhondda Cynon Taf who care for someone else who, due to illness, injury or a disability, is unable to look after themselves. Thanks to the hours these unpaid carers give to their family or friends, they can remain happy, safe and independent in their own homes.
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council salutes and supports the efforts of each and every one of these incredible volunteers and recognises each carer needs specific support that meets their needs.
It has dedicated support on offer to meet the needs of carers.
For example, many carers are adults looking after a spouse, parent or child. There are also young carers who are children and need dedicated assistance to allow them to care, but to also flourish and grow themselves.
Young adult carers is the newest service, launched after it was identified older children and young adults needed support to care and also needed support to ensure they did not miss out on social, academic and personal experiences.
“There are hundreds of children, young adults and adults just like Lucinda who have willingly and happily committed their lives to caring for a loved-one.
“We commend each and every one of them and aim to repay them for the work they do by delivering an exceptional Carers’ Support Service, which has dedicated help on hand for carers – no matter how old they are or their personal experience.
“Our service has a range of things on offer, from peer groups and coffee mornings to social experiences, activity days, legal and benefits workshops and more. There really is something for everyone and the entire service is designed around meeting the needs of carers, helping them to care but also ensuring they don’t miss out on personal, social, educational or employment opportunities.”
For more information, visit The Carers' Webpages or you can telephone the Freephone Carers’ Line on 0808 100 1801 or email firstname.lastname@example.org