Monday, December 3, 2012

The Real Young Caregivers!

I often make the point that I was relatively young when I entered the world of dementia and caregiving, due to the fact that my father was fairly young when his disease manifested. I was around 33 or 34 when I was faced with the realities of taking over the running of someone else's life as well as providing physical and emotional care. I found it to be quite a burden, not least because it was not something I was expecting to have to do for many more years, during which I would have hopefully learned how to do some of the stuff I was being asked to do. Generally, we are not prepared to have to care for a loved one or parent until later in life; it was a challenge and a steep learning curve to have to do so early and I knew nobody else in my peer group who was going through the same thing.

What many of us don't know is that there is a growing group of even younger caregivers in this country. There is a vulnerable and hidden population of young people, conservatively estimated to exceed 1.4 million children, who provide care for family members who are unable to manage life independently. These include children under 18 who balance school and their home lives while providing the only care their family member will receive due to poverty, lack of medical coverage, and lack of other assistance. I thought I had it bad at 33, trying to balance my responsibilities, but my heart breaks at the thought of these very young, very brave people having to be grown up before their time.

There is an organization based in Florida whose mission has become to spread the word about this hidden population through their website, outreach, and donations.

"The AACY® mission is to increase awareness about the effects on children who provide care for family members who are ill, injured, elderly and/or disabled while fostering the replication of the Caregiving Youth Project model within Florida and the US; to provide direct and indirect support services for caregiving youth and their families; and, to establish the Institute on Youth Caregiving.

AACY® addresses the needs of pre-teens, teens, families, and professionals through education and awareness, research, and direct services. It collaboratively utilizes existing resources locally, regionally, and nationally to effectively recognize and support the vulnerable and valuable role a caregiving youth has within the family, in the health delivery system and in an aging and diverse society. AACY® is expanding its reach through an affiliate network, partnerships and the future establishment of the Caregiving Youth Institute."

I urge you to go to their website during this season of giving and taking care of others at:, and donate what you can. You'll be helping a courageous young person who is having to perform above and beyond the call of duty. Spread the word; these kids need our support!

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