Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Children as Caregivers: A Hidden National Problem (Video 2:54 mins.)

Most of us are aware of the millions of unpaid adult caregivers in America. But did you know that 1.4 million children, some as young as eight years old, are also caregivers? Most of their disabled or sick patients, usually parents or grandparents, have Alzheimer’s disease or cancer. Because these young people take on complex responsibilities early in life, they often miss experiences that most children take for granted. Sleepovers and after-school activities can be difficult when an ill loved one needs caregivng available at home. This problem is particularly prevalent in minority communities and among low to mid-income families.

A government study based on two national surveys by Mathew Greenwald and Associates reports that caregiving for young people can include, not only feeding, dressing, and medicating, but also toileting, bathing, and changing adult diapers. It is not unusual for these children to miss school in order to perform their caregiving duties. The emotional stress they carry can be even more harmful to them than the physical burdens. They are also more likely to be anxious and depressed.

You can view this video that gives more information about this seldom discussed problem of children serving as caregivers with adult responsibilities.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback at many booksellers and in e-book form at Amazon and Barnes and Noble booksellers.


  1. I have run across this situation a couple times in my hospice career. It was something I had never expected to see and so was very shocking. My heart really goes out to these kids.

  2. Thank you for responding. A former school principal in a low-income minority community, I have also witnessed the negative aspects of children serving as caregivers.

  3. Having been an adult caregiver for elderly parents for the past several years and experiencing the stress involved, I cannot imagine the strain these youngsters are under with so many adult responsibilities. It is heartwarming to see the love and kindness expressed by the two children in the video, but one has to sympathize with their plight. They should be entitled to their "youth".

  4. I agree with you. Thanks for your comments. Discussions like this help to get the word out.