As a high school guidance counselor, I find myself working with a growing number of students who are caregivers for a parent or grandparent. Sometimes the student is helping to care for a grandparent who lives with the family. In other instances, students are caring for a parent who has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
I’m looking for resources that I can share with these students. I know young caregivers are at higher risk for dropping out of school and I’d like to do all I can to prevent that from happening.
Do you have any advice?
4 Steps for Supporting Young Caregivers
What a great question! Thank you for asking it and giving us the opportunity to talk about an issue that impacts the 1.4 million children and teens between the ages of 8 and 18 who are caregivers.
According to the American Association of Caregiving Youth, 72% of young caregivers are assisting in caring for a parent or grandparent with a chronic disease. A few ways you can help support young adult and millennial caregivers include:
- Helping them stay connected: Caregivers of all ages say they feel isolated from friends. For young caregivers who are learning and growing, isolation can be especially impactful. One way to offer support is by helping them feel more connected. A couple of ideas are to coordinate a support network of students who are caregivers or by encouraging student caregivers to use video chat to talk with friends.
- Learning about senior care: A millennial caregiver who is busy with caregiving and schoolwork may not have the time or ability to research alternative options for their loved one’s care. You can help by creating a resource center with options for support. Respite care at local assisted living communities, churches that have friendly visitor programs, and home care agencies that offer hourly caregivers can be potential solutions.
- Suggesting online support groups: Another avenue that can offer emotional support to younger caregivers is an online support group. The American Association of Caregiving Youth is home to a wide range of support and resources for young caregivers. ALZ Connected from the Alzheimer’s Association and the Family Caregiver Alliance are two others.
- Advocating for young caregivers: Most schools are unaware of how many students are caregivers for a loved one. Having a supportive school environment will help young caregivers stay in school instead of dropping out. Connecting with local advocacy groups, such as the Alzheimer’s Association, can help you learn how to build a supportive environment at your school. The Caregiving Youth Project also has good resources you can reference for ideas.
I hope this information is helpful, Sandy! Thank you again for reaching out to discuss such an important issue for young caregivers.