Billy, a seventh grade student sits in his class wondering if his father remembered to take his medicine at lunchtime; medicine that he left out for him. Billy is a caregiving youth, and one of his many responsibilities is to make sure his father takes his medication.
When Billy got home, he asks his dad, "Did you take your medicine?"
His father says "Yes." Yet, when Billy cleans up the dishes, he notices the pill on the plate. This is not the first time this has happened.
Billy feels frustrated, angry and responsible. He wants his father's health to improve so he can have his dad back. And, he doesn't want his mother to be disappointed in him when she gets home late and tired from work. So he pretends that everything is fine and keeps silent, even though he knows his father didn't take his medicine.
Employed adult family caregivers, like Billy's mom, face many challenges trying to maintain their day job. Balancing work and caregiving often means making it to the office physically, yet only partially being there mentally. Worry and stress result in lost productivity, being forced to juggle too many responsibilities causes lateness, extra personal phone calls, time off for doctor's appointments and sometimes needing to work part time instead of full time in order to provide needed care for a loved one.
Billy knows his mother is doing the best she can. Tomorrow is another day, and Billy wonders whether he should stay home from school to take better care of his father.
Billy also worries that if something happens to his dad it will be his fault. Not knowing any other option, the next morning as his mother rushes out the door to go to work, Billy tells her he is not feeling good and wants to stay home from school. His mom feels somewhat relieved knowing that Billy will be with her husband all day and that he will take good care of his dad.
Resources to help families cope with caregiving
It doesn't have to be this way!
If Billy and his mom had support as a caregiving family and knew about some available resources, their lives could transform. A few support options might include:
Adult day care for Billy's father.
Paid or volunteer respite and socialization during the day when Billy is in school and his mom is at work.
Utilization of medication reminder and/or monitoring systems.
Coordination with school staff to allow Billy to call home and check on his dad to reduce his worry about what he is going to find when he gets home from school.
Caregiving Youth Project support for Billy to know he is not alone in this role and to provide him with services to support his education, well-being and give him some childhood experiences.
Children are our future, and their well-being and education must become a priority. Caregiving youth are in special circumstances, through no fault of their own. They deserve recognition and special support in their caregiving role at home.