Care-giving Away Our Youth

Every few weeks, a member of the Xi Xi Chapter of Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority, Inc. tackles a diversity-related topic that interests her and posts her thoughts for the intellectual benefit of all.

Members of the Xi Xi Chapter represent a variety of races, cultures, religions, backgrounds, and lifestyles.  Each woman’s unique voice and perspective push the entire chapter out of its comfort zone and into real understanding of the world around us.  It is only when we recognize and appreciate difference that we gain the ability to critically engage our own worldviews.

Care-giving Away Our Youth – W. Hartmann

Care-giving can be difficult to define, but it indicates a variety of helping behaviors which imply responsibility of one person for the well-being of another. The ways of being a caregiver can vary in intensity. At one end of the spectrum is helping with chores, responsibilities, or arranging healthcare, the way a spouses do, but it can also reach the degree where one individual is completely responsible for another, the way a parent is responsible for an infant.

Caregivers also come in many forms. Some are unpaid spouses, family members, or friends who care for a disabled or ailing relative or friend, while others may be trained volunteers or paid professionals. Knowing this, when you picture a caregiver, you might see a mother and child, an adult caring for an aging parent, or a home health aide visiting and elderly adult. Not many would imagine high-school students are capable of assuming the responsibility towards their ailing parents, however, this is just what Nickolaus Dent and thousands of other young people have done.

CNN brought attention to a “hidden population” of young adults who care for ill, disabled, or aging relatives at the expense of their education and social lives. These individuals assume many or all household responsibilities, including chores, errands, and their relatives’ healthcare, often before they’re able to drive.

"Nickolaus Dent" - Courtesy of
"Nickolaus Dent" - Courtesy of

13 year old Nickolaus Dent assumes a role in his family that most of his peers will not achieve until many years later. Yet, despite applauding the love and tenacity of youth like Nickolaus, we must remember that they are not immune to the disadvantages of care-giving, namely caregiver burnout. Giving time and energy to others often means individuals spend less time taking care of themselves.

Caregivers can as a result feel isolated from their families or social groups; at long intervals, they are additionally at risk for effects of anxiety, depression, and declining health. The negative effects are compounded, because when a caregiver is unable to function adequately, the recipient to their care could also suffer from their needs being insufficiently met.

The good news? There are many form of support for caregivers, no matter what their age. It may not be obvious that caregivers need help, so if you know a young caregiver, put them in contact with the American Association of Caregiving Youth, where youth like Nickolaus can take advantage of mental health services, educational support, and social outlet so that they can regain balance and control over their lives.

There are various support groups and websites for caregivers based on the type of care-giving that can be accesses with a simple internet search.

Finally, if you would like to help, show you care! All it takes is a conversation with a friend or family member about the burdens of care-giving. You can also get in touch with your local chapter of the Visiting Nurse Association of America to see how you can help caregivers in your community.

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