Young Carers: Looking After Mum
Real Stories (2017)
This documentary profiles three British young carers. According to the Carers Trust, a young carer is someone under 18 who looks after family members who are ill, disabled or misuse drugs or alcohol. When large numbers of children grow up looking after parents, you know something is terribly wrong with the social safety net. Although the problem is comparable, if not worse, in the US, it’s a totally taboo topic in the mainstream media.
The first two young carers are girls, age 12 and 9, who look after their four younger brothers because their parents are legally blind. The two girls are responsible for feeding, diapering, and dressing their two youngest brothers, as well as shopping (the 12-year-old uses her bike for transportation), meal preparation, laundry, and first aid. On school days, the two youngest remain in dirty nappies until their sisters return from school.
Although the 12-year-old has a very stoic demeanor, she’s very definite about not wanting children of her own. The 9-year-old, who is openly tearful and depressed, made a suicide attempt a year ago.
The parents’ total lack of insight into their daughters’ distress is heart breaking. The only opportunity the girls have to play with other kids is Saturday afternoon outings organized by the Carers Trust.
The third young carer is a 14-year-old boy whose mother suffers from depression and fibromyalgia. Because she’s bedridden much of the time, he prepares most of the meals and does the cleaning, laundry, and ironing.
According to the Carers Trust, there are 175,000 child carers in the UK.