Alfie, 17, cares for his mum, Georgina, who has a Cavernoma (a tumour) in her brainstem which causes her to feel dizzy, have severe headaches and sometime seizures. Georgina’s partner, Scott, takes care of her full-time, as she often needs a lot of rest due to the side effects of the tumour. Alfie has been helping to look after his mum since he was in middle school. He starts by telling us what a normal day looks like for him…
A day in Alfie’s life involves helping out generally around the house, getting medication for his mum and staying home with her to make sure she is feeling okay. Alfie sometimes has to help his mum if she has a seizure. He has a process he follows when this happens in order to keep her safe.
During the first lockdown in 2020, Alfie and his family had to isolate for 13 weeks due to Georgina being clinically vulnerable, which he found difficult, however made the most of it doing quiz nights and walking his energetic dog every day.
Being a young carer, Alfie sometimes misses out on being with his friends and peers his age. He is, however, lucky to have incredibly supportive and understanding friends who will even come and sit with him and his mum when he is the only one there to look after her. We asked Alfie what advice he would have for other young carers like him:
“Tell your closest and trusted friends that you are a young carer. Explain your role to them so that they understand what you can and can’t do. Surround yourself with close friends who support you. Telling people at school also helps. I have a pastoral worker at my school who I can go to at any time and speak to which really helps to offload and then contain my worries. They can communicate with your teachers and cut you some slack in school, for example, when you haven’t been able to do your homework on time.”
Alfie explained that his close friendships meant the world to him and that things would be very different if he hadn’t had the supportive friends he does now. Alfie thinks he would really worry about telling people he was a young carer had he not grown up with his friendship group knowing about his mum’s tumour. Having these people in his life means that if Alfie ever feels worried or overwhelmed when his mum is taken into hospital, he has them to rely on for support. When he needs to take care of himself, Alfie enjoys spending time with people close to him and escaping to the world of gymnastics. Growing up being a gymnast from the age of 4, it is Alfie’s escape and release. He is now a gymnastics coach, giving time to younger gymnasts.
Alfie explained that due to having a good relationship with his pastoral worker, it meant that his teachers helped him out a lot and he feels that his school supports him well. They ensured that deadlines were extended wherever he needed it, gave him a ‘time out’ card for whenever he was feeling worried during class and made someone available when he needed to talk at school. His view is that if people know about your role as a young carer, you will inevitably get the help you need.
Alfie lives in a small village, where a lot of locals know of him and his family and offer support and help frequently. He knows this is not the case for all young carers and thinks that there should be more awareness of young carers so that they can get the support they need.
When asked about the skills he thinks he has developed from being a young carer, Alfie told us about his empathy, resilience and discipline. He has developed an ability to deal with events under pressure, be mentally strong in the face of difficulties and understand other people’s situations by always respecting that everyone has a story unique to them. These skills, along with his passion and determination will stand him in good stead to pursue his dream of being an Armed Police Officer. Being away from home whilst training will be tough for him, however Alfie’s openness and honesty about his caring role means he is able to communicate with anyone about what he needs in his role as a young carer and make life a little easier for himself.