At a time when teens should be active in extra curricular activities, hanging out with friends and working at part time jobs, more and more kids are taking on the task of caregiving.
According to Dr. Julia Belkowitz, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, more than 1.3 million preteens and adolescents spend their free time caring for a family member with a physical or mental illness, or misuse substances. The daily tasks include helping family members with eating, dressing, toileting, getting around, bathing and other common daily activities.
Dr. Belkowitz and her colleagues worked with the American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY) in Palm Beach County, FL to gain an understanding of the experiences of these youth who were an average of 12 years old; 62% were girls & 38% boys. In addition to daily care, the caregivers also indicated that in some cases, they cleaned the house, shopped for groceries, administered medications, provided companionship and emotional support and other tasks that are beyond their experience and training.
While caregiving can be difficult for many adults, these teens are facing challenges and situations that shouldn’t normally be on their radar. AACY is helping to raise awareness about the issue of youth caregivers and working to develop partnerships to better understand issues and provide the resources and support to this growing population of caregivers.