A woman who became a carer at the age of nine when her dad was left disabled after a car crash is speaking out during Carer’s Week 2016 to highlight the challenges young people face.
Courtney Speirs, from Paisley, Scotland, says: ‘It was winter and my dad was driving through the Highlands at night with my uncle after a family reunion.
‘Suddenly his car slipped on black ice and came off the road. It was sent careering down a steep embankment, trapping them for eight hours until they were discovered.
‘A farmer had gone to round up his sheep and luckily he spotted the headlights and called an ambulance and the fire brigade, who cut them free.’
The accident left Courtney’s dad Scott, 42, with short-term memory loss and the inability to use his arms and hands to grip objects because of nerve damage.
Courtney, who is now 18, says: ‘I was only nine at the time but I remember asking mum where dad was, as
it was getting late.
‘The following day my mum received a call to say that he’d been in a car accident and he was in hospital.
'That night it had snowed heavily so we couldn’t even get to the hospital to see him.
‘He was in for two nights and when he came home, he was a changed man. He couldn’t use his arms or hands at all.’
Scott, who was a security guard, was suddenly unable to feed, wash or clothe himself so his family stepped in to support him.
But two years after the incident, Courtney’s mum Yvonne, 38, who is a sales assistant at Marks and Spencer’s, was forced to return to work to provide for the family.
That left Courtney as the primary carer of her father.
She says: ‘It was really hard. ‘I would do all the housework, make meals, remind my dad to take his medication and take him to hospital appointments.
‘I missed a lot of time off school. Each year I had to work hard to ensure I’d made up for my shortfall.’
With Fixers help Courtney has produced a poster she hopes will be used in schools and colleges to help young people identify their role as a carer.
She says: ‘Many young carers don’t realise, or won’t acknowledge, their role as a carer.
‘I want other young people to identify with my poster and have the confidence to seek help and get the support they need.’
But Courtney explains being a carer is more challenging than ever now she is a teenager.
She says: ‘All my friends are going out clubbing but I can only ever go along for a couple of hours. I feel like I’m missing out.’
And when Courtney, who is studying child care at West College Scotland, goes off to university, she will choose to go to the University of the West of Scotland so she can continue caring for her dad at home.
She says: ‘We didn’t choose this life but you have to make the best of what you’ve got. I love my dad dearly so caring for him comes naturally.
‘I just wish people recognised the responsibilities young carers take on and were more supportive.’
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