My mom was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2011 at the age of 51. I was 15 at the time. I had no idea what this diagnosis would mean for me or my family. Quickly, our family roles changed. I started to take on more responsibility, first by making my own lunches for school, to making dinner for the family and lately, to helping my mom with personal care. I am experiencing a role reversal; I am taking care of my mom, who used to take care of me.
Throughout my experience I have been offered little support from the systems that surround me. Many times, my role as a young caregiver has not been recognized, not even by me. I came to realize I was a young carer about two years ago when someone else identified my role and gave it a name.
I am extremely excited for the launch of the peer program because it is finally a way for young carers to unite. There is finally a support system at place where young carers can share stories with others who understand the unique challenges they face. So many times you feel as if you are the only person going through this. I’m excited for this program because it gives young carers a chance to support each other.
We are uniquely strong individuals; many of us taking on extreme responsibility at a young age. My hopes for this program are to not only offer a support system for young carers, but to empower them to share their story and educate others on the importance and significance in their role. Young carers are under-identified and undervalued and I believe this peer program could be a huge leap in a young carers movement.