Ashley Little, a 22 year old from Redditch in Worcestershire has been caring for his mum Tracy who has early-onset dementia, for three years.

Ashley, who dropped out of college because he wanted to support his mum through her illness, is one of more than 400 young carers in the county to be supported by Worcestershire Young Carers, a service delivered by independent charity YSS.

Ashley, who lives with his Dad John and older sister Angela, decided to become his mum’s full-time registered carer ‘out of necessity and because (he) love(s) her’. He explained: “My Dad and sister help out with caring for mum when they are not at work, but she needs someone to be there all the time. The semantic dementia can make her aggressive, paranoid or depressed, and she needs help with things like getting dressed and remembering to take her medicine.”

Early-onset dementia affects at least 42,000 people in the UK - more than 5% of all those with dementia – and can cause problems with movement, walking, coordination or balance, as well as changes in behaviour and mood.

Worcestershire Young Carers provides support to young carers aged seven to 17 and young adult carers like Ashley aged 17 – 25. The service, successfully delivered by YSS since 2003, provides one-to-one support, signposting, assessment and a wide variety of clubs and activities throughout the year, which give young carers the rare opportunity to kick back, socialise and have some fun outside of their home environments - which can often be stressful - and away from their caring roles.

A typical day for Ashley, who is learning to speak German and Japanese whilst caring for his mum, involves getting up at 8am, getting himself washed and dressed and eating breakfast. He gets his mum out of bed and makes her breakfast (‘usually jam on toast as that’s her favourite’). Tracy’s illness requires daily treatment, which involves eight different kinds of pills. Ashley is responsible for making sure she takes the correct dosage at the right time, and will also help her to get dressed and make sure she’s happy with an activity like watching TV or reading a book. He said: “I feel happy that I can help out my family but also quite trapped and isolated. It’s hard to have time for friends or hobbies. When mum is in the middle of an episode of paranoia or anger it’s hard to try and get her out of it and emotionally draining to try and withstand it.”

Despite the challenges that being a young carer can bring, Ashley remains positive and is grateful for the support provided by YSS. He commented: “The best thing about caring for mum is when she is in a positive mood. Making sure she’s happy and seeing her in a great mood is the most rewarding thing.”

Ashley has been supported by Worcestershire Young Carers since November 2016 and has also been involved in the Participation Group run by YSS, which offers the chance for young carers aged 18 and under to meet and talk about the issues that are important to them. In the past four years the group has met with professionals from Worcestershire County Council, Worcestershire libraries and the NHS, and has had a direct impact on many of the services that young carers are involved with, including changing the ways that Early Help providers identify young carers, and shaping the young carers service at YSS.

He said: “Being supported by Worcestershire Young Carers has been brilliant. I’ve had the chance to meet other carers who are all in similar situations. The service gives really valuable support and opportunities to young carers, who can often be hidden from view, and provides them with the skills and support needed to help them cope with their difficult situations.

“Without Worcestershire Young Carers I don’t think I would have been able to cope with looking after mum, especially without a network of people to talk to.” 

Lorraine Preece, Chief Executive at YSS, said: “Ashley’s story is just one example of the many young carers we support. He is an exceptional and truly caring individual who has greatly benefitted from the support of Worcestershire Young Carers. Whilst we work with more than 400 young carers every year, the 2011 census revealed that, in Worcestershire alone, there are estimated to be 3,490 young people with a caring role at home. We want to be there to support as many of these young carers as possible. This national Carers Week please join us in raising awareness of young carers. Become a volunteer, make a donation or share our message with your friends, families and colleagues and help us to support the young carers who need us. Thank you!”

To find out more about becoming a Worcestershire Young Carers volunteer please click here, or to make a donation to support our work click here. You can also help to spread the message by sharing this news story on Facebook and Twitter.