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Life as a Caregiving Youth

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“The American Association of Caregiving Youth aims mainly to make sure that caregiving students don’t drop out of school…”

Life as a caregiving youth for me feels pretty normal.  I’ve done it my whole life so its always been that way. I’ve never had to caregive as much as Nick Dent, discussed below, does every day of his life.

My dad’s cancer has long since gone into remission, but a long-term side effect called radiation-induced lumbosacral plexopathy (nerve damage) has meant that his ability to walk was severely affected. His legs are weak, and while he isn’t confined to a wheelchair, he uses walking sticks, ankle-foot orthotics, and patience to get around.

That leaves all physical household duties to mom and me. This is an inconvenience in our house, but these are also pretty mild care taking duties compared to being a caretaker to someone who is actively going through cancer therapy.

Caregiving teens are referenced in a few articles I’ve seen as a “hidden demographic.” It seems like they are a hidden demographic because they are burdened by the duties of caregiving, which can effect them financially, mentally, and physically, but these teens don’t make themselves known or publicly ask for help because they are caregiving out of devotion to their sick family member. They think theres nothing that can be done, but some organizations do actively help struggling caregivers. For one, support groups are very helpful for getting emotional support that is needed. Imagine how emotionally unstable teens are and now imagine that they’re a caretaker on top of that. They need support groups. In some of these groups caregiving teens can meet up with each other, like this one.

Below are some of the ways in which caregiving teens are disadvantaged.

Alex Emerson

  • Writer
  • Caregiver

Recommended Reading:

Help for a ‘hidden population’ of caregiving kids

“At 13 years old, Nickolaus Dent is his mother’s primary caregiver.

He’s responsible for the grocery shopping and cooking. He cleans the house. He does all the laundry.
His mother, Janine Helms, has been battling HIV for as long as Nickolaus can recall, and her health has deteriorated in the last couple of years. Nickolaus makes sure she takes her medication. He often helps her get dressed, and at times, he has helped her bathe.
Nickolaus’ father died two years ago. Since then, ensuring Helms’ well-being has been a full-time job for Nickolaus, leaving him with little energy to socialize or study.
“It does make it hard to pay attention in class,” he said. “Helping her out is a bigger priority than going to school and getting (an) education, because I feel if I don’t have her, I don’t want to go to school. Whatever happens to her happens to me.”
Nickolaus is just one of the estimated 10,000 youth caregivers living in Palm Beach County, Florida, according to the American Association of Caregiving Youth…”

Young Caregivers

  • “According to a 2006 study conducted by Civic Enterprises for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 22% of high school dropouts in the United States leave school to care for a family member.”
  • A third (30 percent) of child caregivers help with medications and 17 percent help the care recipient communicate with doctors or nurses.
  • 35 percent of child caregivers in minority households report having no help in dispensing medications, compared to 11 percent in non-minority households.
  • About half (49 percent) of the caregivers report that they spend “a lot of time” caregiving.
  • According to parents’ reports of their child’s behavior, child caregivers tend to exhibit more anxious or depressive behavior than noncaregivers.
  • Participation in school activities, school performance, and achievement is also affected.
  • Children who are caregivers are more likely to have trouble getting along with teachers, to bully or act mean toward others and to associate with kids who get into trouble.
  • The percentage is about equal of boy and girl caregivers, but boys seem to have greater difficulties than girls, particularly in feelings of isolation and sadness and in behavior and school problems.

Welcome to American Association of Caregiving Youth!

The Council on Aging, the Caregiver Assistance Network, and the Alzheimer’s Association are organizations that provide support groups. Also, one organization in particular focuses on helping the caregiving youth. The American Association of Caregiving Youth aims mainly to make sure that caregiving students don’t drop out of school. Their mission is “to increase awareness and provide support services for youth caregivers and their families by connecting them with healthcare, education and community resources.”

This is a noble organization that you should support and look into especially if you’re a caregiver.

“Mission of AACY – to increase awareness and provide support services for youth caregivers and their families by connecting them with Healthcare, education and community resources.”



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