Switching roles: youth caregivers

Generally, adults do not think of preteens or adolescents as needing to assume the role of caregivers for their parents and/or grandparents. Adults believe that preteens and teens lead carefree lives in which they spend their days socializing with their friends, going to school, playing video games, lolling about the house, playing on sports teams, testing the limits at home etc., etc.

Mother and sonHowever, the American Academy of Pediatrics at a recent conference on October 10 in San Diego revealed that this assumption is not necessarily true.  Studies have estimated that as many as 1.3 million preteens and teens in the United States are “caregiving youth” who spend their non-school hours caring for ill, injured, aging, and disabled family members. Their caregiving duties, which include assisting with tasks of daily living, shopping, house cleaning, dispensing medications, etc., put these children at risk for academic failure as well as health-related issues that are brought on by the physical and emotional stressors of being placed in such demanding situations. A study conducted in 2005 by the American Association for Caregiving Youth (AACY) found that 62% of these caregivers are young girls; their median age is 12 years.

For more information on this “hidden population” consult the American Association for Caregiving Youth (AACY) at http://aacy.org/ or read more at sciencedaily.com.

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