Shree is a caregiver to her grandmother, Sharda, who has vascular dementia. Whilst being a carer at any age brings challenges, Shree shares her story of how she balances life and navigates the world of caring at the age of 26.
When I am asked how I manage as a young adult caregiver, I think of my never-ending to-do list.
It's that compilation of all the tasks and information it takes to manage myself and my loved one(s) and keep things humming along. Carers, you know exactly what I mean, right?
We keep appointments. And records. And tempers. And have to sort pharmacy calls, doctor cancellations, dentist check-up calls, water bills. Give our time. And hugs. And cleaning. And late nights. And lack of sleep. And more.
For many young carers like myself, the everyday pressure we face is immense.
Not only are we the primary caregivers to our loved one(s), we may also have to hold down a job to build our career, maintain friendships and relationships we care about, study for exams. This all goes along with the hours upon hours of invisible labour we do for our loved ones.
Caregiving since my early twenties
I have been a carer since I was 21, and whilst it has been extremely turbulent, it has also been life-changing in so many positive ways.
My grandma, Sharda, has vascular dementia; this is a common type of dementia caused by reduced blood flow to the brain.
As my grandma's dementia progresses, I have become her feet, her hands and her mind.
Each day she faces a new challenge: one day she’s having strong hallucinations, the next she has incontinence troubles, the next she can’t walk. And then within minutes, she forgets it all happened and we have a laugh and hug.
Light at the end of the to-do list
In my five years of being a young adult caregiver, there is so much I have lost, but there is also so much that I have gained.
I have gained perspective
Being a carer has made me recognise my soft and gentle personality, alongside my fierce and resilient soul.
I have also gained emotional maturity, emotional intelligence and empathy; these qualities have continuously enabled me to work with my strengths to manage difficult times.
I have gained strong relationships
Dementia has given me stronger relationships; with family, friendships, work colleagues, relationships.
As the five years have passed, I have felt support from so many in my life.
Whilst caregiving is isolating and I do not always feel understood through my battles, I have had so many people in my life step in and step up to be there for me.
Our lows together have been low, but our highs together have been particularly high, and I am immensely grateful.
I have gained respect for carers
It is no doubt that caregiving is difficult, draining, heroic.
Carers are silent key workers and there needs to be more recognition for what they do. This feels particularly relevant as we have come out of the global pandemic as people who have been quietly holding our families together in the privacy of our homes, with little to no outside support due to restrictions.
I have gained a fuller respect and appreciation for carers, be it parents, elderly carers, spouse carers, young carers and more.
I have gained self love
Caregiving has been a journey, one that led to caregiver guilt and stress that radically changed my self-concept in a negative way.
Overtime, I have had to unlearn these thoughts and have extended greater care to myself.
Some days I give myself credit for just ‘simply enduring’ and ‘doing my best’ during the tough times. I remind myself that I am doing incredibly well and I think about all that I am, instead of all that I am not.
Dementia carers should be celebrated
I feel like carers are often forgotten by the system, yet are required to save the country billions of pounds. On this day we should celebrate and acknowledge those who care for others.
If you know a carer, reach out to them; even a small message acknowledging their efforts could make their day.
Caring for a person with dementia: A practical guide
Are you supporting someone living with dementia? Get your copy of the latest version of our guide for carers.