I was going through some boxes the other day and stumbled across a page in an old college notebook where I jotted down the contact information and notes for several Chicago nursing homes. Just looking at my handwriting transported me back to 2005. I had just graduated from college and had just returned to Chicago to begin my career in advertising. I was also trying to work through my mother’s recent stroke or severe multiple sclerosis exacerbation (depends on who you ask). Part of this included researching nursing homes where she could go and live once she was released from her acute rehabilitation center.
Being 22 and trying to juggle all of those decisions was difficult, but it was a lifestyle to which I had become accustomed. I played the role of caregiver for my mom for many years and made many decisions that affected her directly and indirectly. When I tell people my story, they tend to give me this sad look and offer comforting words. I accept and appreciate those words, but not for me. You see, my mother passed away in 2008, so I’m not a caregiver anymore. I accept these words on behalf of former and current caregiving youth.
November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to honor and celebrate the selflessness of family caregivers (read: not paid) who provide support to elderly and/or disabled loved ones. While much of this time is spent reflecting on adult caregivers, I always think about the more than one million children and teens who provide this type of support to a family member. Having to face adolescence while also balancing that type of role and responsibility is not an easy feat. Yet, we do it did it because it needed to be done.
On Sunday, the American Association of Caregiving Youth is hosting its first Twitter chat from 4p – 5p ET. The hashtag is #caregivingyouth. If you are a former youth caregiver, work with children and teens who are, or just want to learn more about how you can support this community, I ask you to join us.
To learn more, please visit www.aacy.org.