Young Caregivers: The Hidden Generation

mom and grandma on hammock

Updated 08/09/2017 1:30pm | There’s a hidden caregiving group in the United States that doesn’t get much attention. That group is young caregivers.

According to a study done by the National Alliance for Caregiving and United Hospital Fund, there’s roughly 1.3 million young caregivers in the United States between the ages of 8-18. A further study in the American Journal of Public Health found that up to 18% of adult caregivers in the United States were between the ages of 18 and 25.

But there is a limit to this research—both studies were published in 2005. The likelihood of an increase in numbers for young caregivers is very strong. Yet no further studies on young caregivers have been done.

At Alert1, we’re here to help support caregivers of all ages. Our medical alerts have been providing caregivers with extra peace of mind for years. We wrote this article to bring attention to an underrepresented portion of the caregiving population. 

Burdens Facing Young Caregivers

sad young caregiver

Being a young caregiver is not easy. Many people think that young caregivers have an advantage. After all, millennials have plenty of youth and energy on their side. However, young caregivers face the same threats of burnout.

  • Thrown into caregiving role. Many young caregivers don’t have a choice on their role. Illnesses or emergencies in the family bring the need for an immediate caregiver. Millennial caregivers step in to care for senior family members because no one else can.
  • A brutal healthcare system. Exam room visits and prescription refills become a nightmare. Young caregivers find themselves dismissed as the appointed voice for their loved one. They’re often considered too young to be in the caregiving role.
  • Taking legal action. Denial of access to legal documents leaves young caregivers in a bind. They’re not taken seriously when advocating for a loved one. Many young caregivers cannot afford to hire a lawyer, leaving their loved one in a dangerous situation.
  • Loss of childhood. Young caregivers have to grow up, fast. They’re tossed into adult situations without guidance. This causes young caregivers to take on more than they can handle.

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Social Struggles for Young Caregivers

young caregiver taking care of grandma

Young caregivers try to stay social. But social activities have to take a backseat to their patient’s needs. Going to the movies with friends becomes a scheduling nightmare. Sometimes extra help is not available, forcing young caregivers to sacrifice their time.

  • Nonstop homework. Young caregivers juggle home life with schoolwork. They face pressure to keep their grades up to have access to higher education. High levels of exhaustion and little sleep only inhibit study sessions. 
  • No time for friends. Young caregivers face social stigma and peer pressure to conform to societal norms. This causes young caregivers to withdraw from their social circles. Many millennials don’t have the same problems as young caregivers. It becomes easy for young caregivers to let go of the need for peer-to-peer socialization.
  • Social isolation. Young caregivers are at an increased risk for social isolation. The demands on their time mean extracurricular activities are the first things to go. Yet most social isolation occurs without the young caregiver being aware of it.
  • The reversal in care. Young caregivers carry the memories of their loved one before they needed care. When the care roles reversed, those memories changed. Young caregivers find themselves taking care of the very people who used to care for them. Their parental support system is gone. 

Care Resources for Young Caregivers

young caregiver frustrated in front of computer

Caregiving is tough. It takes mental and physical strength to cope with the demands. Young caregivers often find themselves in situations that they might not have the strength or maturity to understand. Luckily, there are more and more organizations rising up to provide extra support for all caregivers, including young ones.  

  • American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY). The AACY’s mission to be a support center for youth caregivers. This helps them stay successful in school and life outside of caregiving. The AACY also runs the Caregiving Youth Project.
  • National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC). The NAC aims to promote family caregiving in the United States. A non-profit organization, the NAC has great resources for caregivers of all ages. The NAC connects caregivers to coalitions around the United States.
  • The AARP. Associated with seniors, the AARP is a great resource for young caregivers. An online community and a care support hotline help young caregivers avoid isolation. AARP also publishes up-to-date material for current caregivers.
  • National Caregivers Library. An online database filled with hundreds of resources for caregivers. The National Caregivers Library also includes links to downloadable checklists and paperwork forms. 

We Support All Caregivers

caregiver and grandma. alert1 medical alert system

At Alert1, we support all caregivers, no matter their age. The numbers of young caregivers in the United States is only going to grow. It’s time we gave them the support system they deserve. 

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