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I’m 16 and I am a carer: This is Shannon’s story

Shannon with her mum Pauline (middle) and sister Sophie (right)
Shannon with her mum Pauline (middle) and sister Sophie (right)

Shannon Jamieson is one of 44,000 young people in Scotland providing unpaid care for friends and family.

This week is Carers Week, a chance to recognise their contribution and raise awareness of the work carers of all ages do.

Here is her story:

My name is Shannon Jamieson. I’m 16 years old and I’m from Kintore. I care for my mum Pauline and my twin sister, Sophie.

My mum has a lot of health problems that in each way affects us all. My mum’s health conditions include arthritis in the hands and knees and hips, heart problems, thyroid problems, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and a pulmonary embolism.

My sister’s health conditions are quite different from my mum’s. Sophie is in a wheelchair with only half of a spine. Her condition is called caudal regression syndrome, she has little movement and feeling from waist down, and has had over 30 operations within her life time.

I have been a young career for almost six years. My caring role is pretty much a full time thing, I help when I am home and I am almost always texting or phoning my mum to see if everything is okay when I’m away from home.

I had attended college for a photography course in the year 2016/2017 but I had to withdraw due to personal reasons. During the time I was at college I had to take quite a few days off almost every week due to my mum’s health, the college really understood about the whole situation.

My mum has ended up in hospital with quite severe illnesses such as, ketone acidosis, also problems with her heart, and she had a stroke in 2008. She has been hospitalised with pleurisy, and has had chest infections which causes problems with her diabetes.

I have got a social life but even when I am out enjoying myself with my friends, I’m still texting or phoning my mum, or finding excuses to go home and see her.

Quarries have been a helpful service, for myself as my support worker Ann is just a phone call away if or when I need her, they have always got activities for the young carers to do during holidays, they also do cooking classes to teach the young ones life skills and how to cook healthy meals and quick desserts to make.

Being a young carer is mentally and physically exhausting sometimes.

For example I get up and I remind my mum she has to take her tablets as she has got a bad memory, I remind her to check her blood sugars. At the end of each week I do her dosset boxes for her tablets which means checking to see which tablets she needs to order more of, and sorting all 26 tablets she takes a day into the different times of the day for her to take them.

I attend doctor appointments with my mum so I can hear what they say as she has a bad memory and often forgets what they say by the time we get out the doctor room. I help her to go shopping and I carry the bags inside as she can’t carry heavy things due to deep tendon and tissue damage in both of her upper arms.

I think carers should be recognised as we do a lot for the people around us and no one seems to realise the things we do, no one seems to understand the term ‘young carer’.

When I say to people I’m a young carer some people say to me “What’s that?” Then when I tell them I care for the people I do and why I do it they seem amazed that someone the age of 16 can be mature enough to care for someone other than themselves.

Carers need the recognition that we deserve. I am proud to call myself a young carer as are so many other carers proud to be one. We need people to realise that carers that aren’t 20 or 30 plus are out there and we do just as much of a good job as the professionals do.”

Shannon’s mum, Pauline

I find Shannon’s help very useful as I do have a bad memory so when Shannon reminds me to take my tablets or check my blood sugars it helps me stay on top of them which means I don’t fall ill so easily and end up in hospital.

When I do get ill Shannon seems to take over the mum role by cooking dinner, dealing with the animals we have and helps out Sophie when Sophie would need me.

I would just like to thank Shannon for all her help throughout the years and through the difficult times like when I am in hospital, she makes sure I come home to a clean and tidy house, she cooks for her sister and takes care of her when I am not able to.

Shannon’s sister, Sophie

I enjoy Shannon’s help as when we are out and I get tired from pushing my wheelchair Shannon pushes me until I find the strength again, she helps me when I can’t get up kerbs or when we go up hills and I can’t push up them.

I have to thank Shannon for learning all my after care after my operations as sometimes I need personal help and she helps when mum can’t.

Shannon helps me when I can’t reach something from cupboards or when I’m trying to find something she is able to go on the floor to help me look.

I have to give Shannon credit for never missing one of my many operations I’ve had, even when she was at school or college she would always be there for when I go down to theatre and she’d always be there when I wake up.

A lifeline

Shannon said a lifeline has been the help she has received from Quarriers, one of Scotland’s largest social care charities.

She said her support worker Ann is just a “phone call away” when she needs her and it also offers activities including cooking classes.

A spokeswoman for Quarriers said: “We support adult and young carers across Aberdeenshire, our unique service looks at the effect caring has on the whole family. By taking time to discuss your situation and understanding each person’s needs, we can identify solutions which will benefit everyone.

“We recognise that every caring situation is different and every carer is different, you may be caring for a parent, grandparent, son or daughter, sibling, spouse or partner, friend or neighbour.

“The support we provide includes advice and information, 1-1 support, Peer support, training and development and support to have a life outwith caring.

“We will work with you to help prioritise your needs as carer and help reduce your caring role as much as possible. We can then help you to access the advice and information  and support that best meets the needs of your family.

“No matter where you live in Aberdeenshire you can contact us online, we can meet you in your local community and we are also at the end of the phone.”

Visit for more information.