How to make studying as a young carer more manageable
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Studying in higher education is hard enough without the added stress of having to provide care for someone at the same time.
University and college life is hard: there are hours of classes, a vast amount of group work and always another deadline to meet. So studying and having a social life whilst caring for a loved one may seem impossible to do.
Image credit: Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash
In the UK alone there are around seven million carers - this equates to one in ten people, and that number is rising. A large percentage of UK carers are young adult carers aged between 16 and 25 - according to Carers Trust, there are estimated to be at least 376,000 young adult carers in the UK.When a loved one has a health condition - be it a parent, a sibling or even a grandparent - many young people feel that they have no choice but to provide care for them. And it's an incredible thing to do. However, being a carer - particularly a young carer - can make it difficult to lead your own life, such as being to study at university or college. A recent study from Carers Trust revealed that 56% of young adult carers who are in higher education find themselves struggling with the workload due to their caring role. 16% said that they were considering dropping out for reasons associated with their caring role, whilst 29% of young carers at Nottingham Trent University have dropped out. This study also highlighted that young adult carers appear to be four times as likely as their peers to have to drop out of higher education than other students. This highlights the fact that for young adult carers in the UK who are in higher education, studying at university or college, there is a lack of support available. Whilst it may be difficult to cope with the needs of being a carer in addition to studying, there are steps that can be taken to make the process of coping easier.
1. Take full advantage of all support available to youYoung adult carers are more likely to drop out of higher education as a result of caring for a loved one. It’s not easy providing care to someone who is unable to care for themselves - many adult carers struggle, so it’s no wonder it’s exceedingly difficult for young people carers in education to cope. If you are caring for a loved one while also studying, it’s essential that you take the time to look into the local support that is available for you. There are charities up and down the country that support carers of all ages - reaching out to these charities should mean that you are provided with any additional support that you need. You may also be entitled to extra financial support whilst you're at university too, so it's worth checking this as well.
2. Be practicalWhen it comes to providing care for a loved one, doing so can take up a large amount of your time, which can put a significant amount of pressure on your studies. It’s important to be practical in regards to how you are providing care for a loved one. For instance, you can’t be on-hand 24/7, so getting the help of a local caring service could be something to look into. There are lots of free options for care via the NHS and local charities, it’s just a case of taking the time to look into what your options are. And being lucky - we all know how the NHS is stretched - so don't give up right away if they don't have support available right away. Another key factor to consider is to see how your house could be fitted out with the best equipment. For instance, if the person you are caring for has mobility problems, then having a hoist in place to make moving them safely easier would be something to look into.
Garth Ellis, from CLH Healthcare, a company that has supplied a range of products and services into the healthcare sector for over 30 years, said:
“More and more people are choosing to live at home rather than move into a care home or sheltered housing, which means that there is a need for easier access to specialist products. At CLH, we have launched a direct order and delivery service, to help support those choosing to live independently.”He continued, “For carers of all ages, including young adult carers, access to a range of specialist healthcare products is essential for ensuring that all care is provided in a safe way. Access to these kinds of products can also help to aid the caring process, speeding up certain tasks, in addition to giving the person receiving the care, more independence.”
3. Speak to your university so that they are able to help you
Although it may seem difficult to approach them, especially when you're already overwhelmed, find someone in your course you find comfortable talking to (lecturer, tutor...).
Your university may be to offer a more flexible option, such as a part-time study from home, or they may also be able to tailor courses based on individual learning plans. To find out whether it's available to you, you'll need to speak to your campus’s student services. This would give you more - much needed - flexibility.
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4. Talk to other young peopleYou might feel like you are alone but there is a large community of young adult carers across the UK. In addition to their being support from charities for young adult carers, you may also find that your university runs a support group that you could join. Just don't stay alone and keep it all to yourself. Talking to other people who are in the same position as you are could make your uni experience easier, and you will have an on-campus support system in place. Which is so valuable.
5. Manage your time effectivelyThis might be easier said than done, but ultimately, you'll need to be extremely organised. Think Leslie Knope level of organised. via GIPHY Try to not leave assignments or reading until the last minute, in case something comes up at home. And when booking appointments for the person you are caring for, be mindful of your class schedule and looming deadlines. If you don’t already have one, purchase a planner and use it to keep on top of your workload and caring responsibilities. Map out your time at the start of each week. Dedicate certain periods to studying - you can work these around the times when you have outside carers coming in or other family members helping out. By mapping out your time, you'll see that mos of your tasks will get done, and you'll be likely to fall behind. Caring for a loved one while studying is not an easy task, which is why such a high percentage of young people who are also carers drop out of higher education. However, if you want to be able to finish your studies, the advice above should help to make doing so slightly more achievable. If you are a young carer at university, contact your wellbeing service and see what options are available for you. For more support and information, visit Carers Trust. Lead Image Credit: Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash