Being a Caregiver When You Are Young
The Caring Generation® – Episode 128 March 9, 2022. Being a caregiver when you are young for siblings, parents or grandparents is stressful. Learn how to manage difficult parent relationships, fears and not knowing what to do. On this episode, caregiving expert Pamela D Wilson shares her life experience as a young caregiver and offers tips and wisdom for caregivers of all ages.
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This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, advocate, and speaker on The Caring Generation. Today, the topic is being a caregiver when you are young. First, I want to thank all of the young caregivers who found their way to watch my videos and follow my YouTube Channel.
Watch More Videos About Caregiving and Aging on Pamela’s YouTube Channel
This show is for young caregivers of siblings, parents, grandparents, and caregivers of all ages. I know being a caregiver when you are young can be very stressful. On this episode, we will talk about life events that result in parents needing care, how early life experiences affect young caregivers, why seeking support is important —whether you still live with your parents or have moved out of the home—and tipis to manage when you don’t know what to do.
So if you are a middle-aged or older caregiver listening, don’t go away. The information I’m about to share may have you looking at your caregiving situation a little differently.
Be forewarned that this is an adult conversation. You will hear stories from my personal life that link to experiences working with family caregivers and adults during my professional caregiving career. Sharing stories within families can lead to insights about health, family interactions, and what makes us who we are today.
When I thought about doing this program, I had to think long and hard about what I wanted to say that could be of value for young caregivers and how to explain it in a way that makes sense. I thought about what I wished someone had told me when I was a young caregiver.
Growing up can be challenging enough without the added grown-up responsibilities of being a family caregiver. If you are in your 50 or 60s and I could wave a magic wand to send you back to your childhood or high school days, would you go?
For young caregivers, even though you want to be independent, I can’t emphasize enough being willing to learn from people with more knowledge and life experience. You can shortcut your learning curve by years, sometimes decades, if you seek these people out. Sometimes these people are in your family.
For all caregivers, if your grandparents and parents are still alive, ask them about family history and relationships. Realize that your parents and grandparents may not always see eye to eye, just like you and your parents may not. But, if you ask the right questions, some of the crazy experiences you have or had may make a lot more sense.
How Do Young Children and Adults Become Family Caregivers?
So let’s jump in. I want to start by adding context. Think of context as background information to help make more sense of everything else we will discuss. When we are young, our lives can revolve around school, our friends, what our friends have that we don’t, and wanting to be liked because we haven’t yet developed a solid sense of who we are or what we want from life.
If you think back, how could anyone possibly know at age 17 or 18 what they want to do in their life for a career without any job experience? How many people go to college for one specialization and end up doing something else?
Complications arise when parents who are supposed to be young and healthy forever suddenly become sick or other life events happen, and the entire family struggles. Being a caregiver when you are young can happen for many reasons. The death of one parent makes you responsible for helping raise your brothers or sisters.
One parent has an illness, so children help around the house or provide hands-on care like help with bathing or other personal tasks. Being a caregiver when young may mean that one parent may have a substance abuse issue or mental health issues that mean they can’t keep a job.
You may be subjected to verbal or physical abuse or witness family violence as a young child. A parent may be in jail. A family member may die or commit suicide. You may have to get a job at an early age to earn money to pay for food for the family.
The ACE Study: Adverse Childhood Events and the Effect on Adult Health
Any type of family event like this can be traumatic for a young child. Research on this topic confirms that these events for children before a 17 or 18th birthday are life-affecting. The research is the ACE Study. I will put a link to an article about the ACE Study in the transcript for this show so that you can read it. Kaiser Permanente and the CDC did the research.
These early life traumas can disrupt intellectual and social development and compromise immune systems, meaning that these children will have more health issues. As a result, a more significant potential for substance abuse—smoking, drinking, other drugs—and health problems exists throughout their lifetime. Add to this educational and employment challenges that negatively affect earning income.
You might wonder why I’m opening and sharing this research with you. I want to begin with the worst possible scenarios of being a caregiver when you are young to encourage you to seek help and support.
Many young caregivers rely on parents who cannot guide them because of their life experiences or a lack of life experience and knowledge. If you are a young caregiver this may be hard for you to understand.
I will share my family story with you and relate it to the ACE study, specifically the documented long-term effects on young family caregivers who may be the parents or grandparents you care for.
My parents lived through challenging situations before the age of 18 that affected their lives differently. But even still, these early tragedies that I will share did not affect their parenting abilities. I had great parents that I admire to this day who did not allow early life situations to impact their lives negatively or the way they raised their children.
Your parents or grandparents may have lived through similar situations. While we can’t change the past, understanding past events can help the present make more sense. Based on our childhood experiences with our parents—positive or negative—we get to choose how we want to live our lives.
After discussing adverse childhood events, we will work backward to situations that most young caregivers find themselves in today—finding yourself in situations where you don’t know what to do because you’ve never been in these situations before.
Reconstructing a Parent’s Childhood to Understand Today’s Health Issues
Looking back at my parents’ lives—they’ve been dead for more than 20 years, so I can’t ask them the long list of questions I have—but I can reconstruct how their early life experiences affected their health and need for caregiving. In particular, I will share the story of my mother, whose health issues began in middle age and continued until her death at age 69 in 1995.
So to begin, are you a young caregiver for a parent in their 40 or 50s who has health issues? If so, this discussion may give you some understanding of what issues in your parent’s childhood—if they are willing to share them with you—contributed to the health issues that resulted in you being a young caregiver today.
Or, your parents may be older with health issues not connected to early life events but habits throughout their life that were not supportive of good health. When most of our parents grew up, there was no education about health. For example, what you should do versus should not do. Exercise, eating healthy, seeing a doctor regularly, vaccinations are good. Not good—smoking, drinking, or excessive drug use.
Young caregivers, take the information you are about to hear one step further. If you are a child caregiver or a caregiver in your teens or a caregiver in your 20s or 30s and are experiencing any of these adverse events, seek help and support.
Most of all, realize that these difficulties do not have to impact your life negatively. On the contrary, many positive things come from early life struggles if you make good or different choices. My life is an example of the impact of early life difficulties that I chose to turn into positives.
Health Issues are Not Always Hereditary
Being a caregiver when you are young is talking about health issues because you provide care for parents who have illnesses. Things like heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases can be hereditary, meaning passed down within families, but not always.
Don’t assume that if your parents have heart disease or diabetes, you will also have these diseases. Not true—every person has choices to make about health and learn what you can do differently. You are not pre-destined to repeat the life experiences of your parents.
Separate Appearances From Facts
In many parts of daily life, things are not always as they appear or seem. A suggestion for caregivers of all ages is to become discerning. If you look this word up in the dictionary, discernment is the ability to make an intelligent judgment about something. I use this word because discernment describes a wise way of judging between things by seeing things or finding information that might be hidden or hard to find.
Health issues, needing care, caregiving, family relationships, and related aspects may not always be obvious. You may have to dig and do a little investigation to identify the problem and solve it. If issues exist with you or another person, a willingness to change may be the solution.
So don’t take everything you hear and see at face value. Instead, investigate both sides, ask many questions, and examine the consequences before making any decisions. If you are a young caregiver struggling to survive in an adult world, discernment, separating what is essential or factual from what is not—is a crucial skill to learn.
Balancing your emotions is another important skill to learn. Do a little research about emotional intelligence. You will understand how being emotionally intelligent can improve your relationships.
Young caregivers, I talk to tell me that they struggle with communication. They don’t know how to initiate difficult family discussions. Advances in technology have made it so that face-to-face conversations are rare. Why call and speak to someone if you can text, right?
COVID has fast-forwarded us into a virtual world where life, work, and relationships occur over screens. Computer screens, cellphones, tablets, video, television. And even before COVID, many young children today were raised using technology.
My Mother’s Childhood Path to Poor Health
Let’s turn to my mother’s childhood story and the past to make sense of caregiving needs. Her mother died from tuberculosis when she was five years old. She had an older sister who was 13 and two brothers. Her father, a widowed man, raised these four children until he remarried.
All four children—my mother, my aunt, and 2 uncles—grew up smoking which contributed to heart disease, stroke, cancer, and their deaths. The girls smoked cigarettes and the boys smoked cigars following in my grandfather’s footsteps. My mothers’ sister became an alcoholic. Children who live through early life trauma—for example losing a mother and then being forced to grow up quickly—are more likely to abuse substances. Very true for these individuals in my family.
My mom didn’t finish high school. She got a job to support the family. Then she got married around age 17, probably if I had to guess to get away from family responsibilities. My mother had my oldest brother when she was 18. Soon after his birth, her husband died of leukemia. The same disease that took my brother’s life when he was in his mid-fifties.
So by the age of 18, my mother lost her mother at the age of 5, became a caregiver for her brothers, got married, had her first child, and lost her first husband. If you read the ACE Study, all of these events qualify my mother for a life of health issues.
I’m surprised that she did as well as she did. My mother had no mental health issues. She was very stoic. Stoic means a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining. Her health issues began in her late 40s and continued through her death.
God bless her. I never heard her complain. She dealt with whatever happened in life. Because of the example, she set of dealing with life, I follow in her stoic footsteps.
Adverse Childhood Effects in Addition to Poor Health
So, what effects besides health problems as an adult do early deaths, caring for siblings, or caring for parents have on young children like my mother? Children who become young caregivers for siblings or a parent may not do well in school.
You may drop out. If you finish high school, you may not go on to college. If you go on to college, caregiving responsibilities may get in the way of completing your studies. If you are female, you may be like my mom. You may think of getting pregnant or married as an escape path.
Are any of you in this situation today?
If you are a young caregiver struggling in school, grade school, or high school, I encourage you to seek help and advice. Being a caregiver when you are young poses a long list of challenges.
Think about this. There is only so much a person of any age can do with the knowledge and tools one has at any particular moment. Your parents may be so stressed that they are not in a place to offer wise advice. They may be reacting to what life throws at them, which places you in a difficult position as their child.
If you are six or seven, twelve, thirteen, or sixteen years old, you may be looking to your parents to tell you what to do. You are reliant upon them for food, shelter, clothing, everything. You may be scared to death of what’s going to happen next.
You could also be a young adult in your early twenties still living in the family home but feeling trapped because you can’t financially support yourself to move out. There are varying levels of help and support depending on your age.
Where Young Caregivers Can Turn for Help And Support
Suppose you are looking for ideas about how to manage family relationships or medical situations. In that case, help may be available from an older sister or brother, your grandparents, another family member, a school counselor, or a priest or rabbi.
What then if your parents tell you that for females in the family, your life path is to be the family caregiver and give up things in your life like education, a career, or even marriage to care for them.
This can be especially true if you are African-American, Hispanic, or Asian. These and other family cultures can have very strict beliefs about duty and family caregiving.
Children in these families may be told not to discuss family issues outside of the family. Don’t tell your teachers, friends, or employers about caring for your siblings, mom, or dad. These are private family issues that make it difficult for young caregivers to know how to move forward and what to do.
If you are a child or an adult in any physically or emotionally harmful situation to you, I encourage you to speak up and find support. If no one in your family will help, speak to a teacher, a school counselor, a priest, or a rabbi. Realize that older individuals have experience, knowledge, and access to resources that you may not even know exist.
Hiding Family Issues Makes Young Caregiver’s Lives More Difficult
We talked about discernment a minute ago and the idea of investigating both sides and looking at the consequences. So let’s look at parents who tell young children or adults to hide family issues.
Honestly, there may be some issues that no one needs to know about if no one is being harmed. On the other hand, if you are a young caregiver experiencing emotional distress, not doing well in school, or your parents are physically abusive, who in the family benefits from you remaining silent and suffering?
I know that this is a very adult conversation that may seem hard to hear. Depending on your age, you may be or feel powerless to do anything.
Your mom or dad, who you care for, may be watching this happen and not feel they can support you from their abusive spouse because they are being abused themselves and don’t know what to do. Family abuse is truly a nightmare of being a caregiver when you are young and feeling scared to death and powerless to do anything—yet it happens.
If parents threaten you with being thrown out of the house or other harmful actions if you seek help or go against their wishes, this is a severe situation beyond normal adult-child relationships. Hiding these concerns, not saying anything, will allow your parents to continue doing what they do while you continue to suffer.
Child Protective Services
All county government offices have a child protective division to support children and young adults who may be experiencing any type of family abuse or neglect. While the situation with your parents may seem challenging, difficult, hard, scary, if you have tried everything else and no one in your family will help, you have spoken to teachers or counselors at school, a priest, or a rabbi, call the local police or county child protective services if you feel you are in danger or harm.
Google “child protective services” to find your local number. Don’t allow fear to result in you being physically harmed or pushed beyond what you can emotionally manage.
If you are in a challenging but not abusive situation, a teacher or school counselor may be able to advise you on working through family relationships, provide resources that can help you or counsel you on how to find a job if you are of working age. Becoming financially independent can allow you to move out of a home caregiving situation that has gone beyond normal boundaries to being harmful.
Parents Don’t Always Share Information
Let’s continue with why being a caregiver when you are young can be challenging. If you are like me, I had no idea of the early life experiences of my parents that contributed to health issues—especially my mother’s health because my parents never talked about these things. It wasn’t until after their deaths that I realized all of the events in their early lives.
Parents are not always open with information about their lives. Grandparents may not want to talk about family history. Let me share my father’s early years until he met my mother. Like my mother, by the age of 18 or 19, my father had experienced deaths in the family.
His younger brother was killed in a car accident. His brother, Joe, was standing on a car’s running board while the vehicle was in motion. A drunk driver sideswiped the car and hit Joe, who suffered a skull fracture that resulted in a brain hemorrhage in addition to a broken left hip. It was a blessing that he did not survive.
My grandfather died of type 1 diabetes about 20 days after his son, Joe. In 1937 and before, knowledge and treatment for type 1 diabetes were scarce. My grandfather was in the hospital with gangrene in both legs that were amputated.
Grandpa John died in the hospital, asking the family why Joe hadn’t come to see him. My grandmother decided it best not to tell him Joe had died. When my grandfather died, my father was 19, and Joe, then deceased, was 17.
So my father, at 19, became the breadwinner to support his mother, who eventually remarried. Because jobs were scarce, he enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps. Enlisters made $30 a month, $25, which was sent directly to their families, while the other $5 was for the enlister to keep.
At the start of World War II, he enlisted in the Army and was stationed in the South Pacific on Guadalcanal. After the war, he returned home, met my mother, and the rest became my family history. And if you’re interested in history, there will be links in this show transcript about the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Battle of Guadalcanal.
Unlike my mother, my father never smoked. I believe seeing his father suffer from diabetes in his teens and the loss of his brother changed him. Being in the war changed his outlook on life, health, and physical activity. While he had some minor health issues like asthma, my dad remained physically active all of his life until he died in 1999.
Times Change But Health Issues Remain
So what has changed between my parents, born in 1918 and 1926, and today? The difference is years of medical health advances, Medicare in 1965, and company-sponsored health insurance. Unfortunately, there is still not enough education about health prevention and transparency of health care costs.
As a result, most families remain naïve about caregiving costs for parents and are shocked to learn that Medicare does not pay for old-age care. Few families or individuals realize the importance of ongoing medical care, even if you are not sick, like annual check-ups to identify health issues before they affect your life.
My young caregiving days began in my teens when my mother, in her mid-fifties, had ongoing health and heart problems. I had an older sister who was a nurse who helped out quite a bit. However, as a nurse working in the hospital where my mom was frequently sent for treatment, my sister was unaware of navigating care outside the hospital system.
My mom was adamant about never wanting to go to a nursing home or desiring life-preserving treatment. She always said, “no machines,” and her wishes were honored.
If I learned anything from watching my mother be sick for years, it remains the idea of health prevention. I started going to the gym in my early twenties because I decided I was not going to be sick all of my life and then die an early death like my mother and other people in my family. So I turned the negative live experience of my mother’s poor health into a positive one.
What Can Young Caregivers Do?
As you go through your caregiving experience, ask what you can learn from being a young caregiver. Looking back, my siblings and I could have done a better job caring for my mom if we had been better educated about her health issues. We made mistakes because we didn’t know what to do or what questions to ask, much like being a caregiver when you are young.
We trusted the doctors and the hospital system to tell us everything we needed to know. Know that this is an unrealistic expectation. Remember, any person can only help others to the degree that they have had a similar experience or have information or knowledge that because of experience extends into other areas that can be helpful. The doctors we worked with were unaware of resources and support in the community.
Also, your parents, when they are having health issues, may not know what to do—what questions to ask. They may want medical care or not trust doctors or the healthcare system.
And as a young caregiver, you may be watching all of this happen and not know how to talk to your parents. This is normal. If your parents are experiencing these issues for the first time, they may not know what to do. So it can be a difficult, frustrating, and scary experience which is why you must seek outside support, help, and resources. I know I sound like a broken record here.
So this leads to what advice I have for being a caregiver when you are young. The guidance relates to being a caregiver and the broader aspects of life that everyone experiences.
1 Avoid Assumptions
The first piece of advice is never to assume that someone else has handled it or has the answers—even if this person is your parent or your brother or sister, or someone in your family. It’s okay to ask questions and say, “I’m worried about your health. What steps are you taking to manage this? Is there anything else that can or should be done?”
If your parents have not used the skill of discernment, share the concept with them. As a family, use discernment to balance, gather information, and make decisions. Don’t rely on past experience that may not be relevant. Discernment is a skill everyone can learn.
Using discernment means asking about the pros and cons and the future consequences of doing or not doing. So, for example, what happens if we do this? What happens if we don’t do this?
And how does this affect mom, dad, my brothers, my sisters, me, our family, the house we live in, the family income? Poor health affects the ability of a parent to support a family or an individual to support him or herself. Watch and learn from this experience because it will affect the rest of your life.
2 Use Grandparents As Support System If Possible
If you are young and don’t know what to do, use grandparents as a support system if possible. If you are having difficulty talking to your parents or if your parents don’t want to talk to you about health issues ask your grandparents to help you.
Now, this depends on the relationship that your parents and their parents have. In some families, this relationship is strained, and it can affect relationships with grandchildren. Separately, your parents may not want you talking to their parents sharing what they see as family secrets, but sometimes there may be nowhere else to turn.
The only grandparent I knew was my step-grandmother because my mother’s father died when I was five years old. She was beautiful and amazingly loving, and kind. I couldn’t have asked for a better grandmother.
But even in my twenties, when my mom was having health issues, I never thought to ask grandma about her experiences or what she thought or any advice she might have for me. Initiating conversations can help young caregivers through difficult times.
This is an example of the lack of insight that young adults, really everyone, can have at any age. Help is there waiting but we don’t know to ask for it.
Looking back, I missed an opportunity. There were questions that I could have asked about how to care for my mom and what happens with health issues. Worst case, grandma could have been a comforting person in my life. There were so many other questions that could have been asked and answered that were lost when she died.
Insight, problem-solving, prevention, and other skills are abilities that young caregivers may lack because you may be so focused on the day-to-day activities of caring for a parent and trying to live your life that you don’t have time to think or investigate other options.
3 Realize That Older Brothers or Sisters May Be Helpful
If you have older brothers and sisters, ask them for help and advice. I was fortunate to have an older sister, Becky, who was almost like a semi-mother to me. She was 11 years older.
When I was seven, she went off to college to become a nurse and returned after graduation to Omaha. Becky gave me advice I remember to this day. Never—ever smoke and do whatever you have to do to go to and finish college.
When you think of it, my oldest sister gave me more practical advice than my parents. Now you would wonder why right? But, you might ask, why didn’t your parents tell you this?
Like I said before, people can only do so much with their knowledge at the time. Our parents and grandparents are no different. So we are all limited by our experiences, our knowledge, what we’ve done that worked and not worked as we expected.
My oldest sister moved away to college for four years. She returned with education and life experiences very different from my parents. My parents did not go to college, so they couldn’t explain why a college education would be a good idea. My father did not need a college degree for his work.
Neither did my mother when she got a job as soon as I went into grade school. It wasn’t as if my parents discouraged college. They had no personal experience with going to college to make any recommendations.
My parents also didn’t have the money to pay for me to go to college. My sister told me about the importance of getting good grades and applying for grants and scholarships.
Unfortunately, like my father’s younger brother Joe, my oldest sister was killed in a car accident. She was 29 years old, and I was in my junior year of high school. My parents didn’t deal with Becky’s death well.
They said children are supposed to lose their parents. My mother and father had lost both of their parents by the time of Becky’s death and one parent by the time they were 18. My father watched his mother experience the loss of her son and his brother. Becky’s death was a traumatic event for me at the age of 16.
4 Find People Outside of the Family Willing to Share Experiences or Be a Mentor
Being a caregiver when you are young is difficult if you don’t have people in your life other than your parents who can and will share their life experiences with you. You also don’t know when you are young that asking for help and advice is the smartest thing you can do.
I learned the hard way by struggling for a lot of years. It wasn’t until I began working and met people of various ages and backgrounds that I gained experience and knowledge. I had coworkers and mentors at work who were brutally honest with me about needing to become a team player, not being naïve about company politics, and taking the high road.
These people came into my life and were helpful because I wanted to learn and grow. I shared my insecurities about what I didn’t know and what I thought I needed to learn, and they willingly helped me.
Being perfectly transparent, not all of my work relationships with bosses and peers worked out this way. But generally, my experiences were positive. I am ever grateful to a handful of supervisors who helped me. So if someone in life helps you, pay it forward. Help another person.
5 Build Experiences That Translate to Wisdom
My advice to being a caregiver when you are young is to realize that there is no way you can possibly know it all in your teens, twenties, even thirties, sometimes later in life, even though you might want to know it all. Wisdom comes from years of life experience and making a lot of mistakes.
No matter how wise you think you are—there are always things to learn and people you can learn from. Remain open-minded and curious. Seek help, support, and advice.
Another important tip. Don’t be intimidated by people who are further along in life or doing better than you. Avoid being jealous of successful people. You don’t know what it took to get there. These people can be your role models, your greatest teachers, and supporters if you ask for their help.
These people may include your brothers or sisters who you believe have abandoned your parents who need care. It is not possible to know your parents’ relationship with your siblings. There may have been irreparable damage done, resulting in a relationship that cannot be repaired. Don’t let your parents come in between you and your siblings and vice versa.
The minute you start saying no, closing your mind, or refusing advice or information—stop yourself. Have a serious talk with yourself to ask what is this about? Why am I saying no? Why am I refusing help? What is going on here? What am I feeling this way? Becoming insightful about emotional responses and learning to manage your emotions is essential to positively managing caregiving relationships.
6 Learn to Work with Healthcare Providers
Consider and ask for advice from healthcare professionals. Think about being on the other side when you are angry with doctors, the pharmacy, and health insurance companies and feel like you are fighting a losing battle to get care for a parent or family member.
What if a doctor is refusing care. Ask why so you understand the reasons. Are there insurance regulations you don’t know about? What restrictions do hospitals and nursing homes operate under? Is there something else going on—a question you haven’t asked?
The more you come to a middle ground in working with others, the more you ask questions and seek to understand, the less you will struggle as a caregiver and in many aspects of life. There is no point in having an adversarial, combative or disagreeable relationship with anyone. Adversarial relationships are dead-end relationships that go nowhere. Have you heard the saying you get more flies with honey? If not look up the meaning.
As a young caregiver, you will have to work not to allow other people, including your parents or siblings, to change your mood or make you feel angry or hateful. Only you control your feelings, thoughts, and actions.
6 Move Out of Your Parent’s Home to Live Independently
At some point when you are still a young adult, move out of your parent’s home. At the same time, I realize that living with parents can save you money. Moving out of your home and learning to live independently will increase your self-esteem and ability to be self-sufficient.
While moving out of the family home can be a scary thought. If you prepare appropriately by having a job, saving money, and having a financial budget you can succeed. Initially you may need a roommate or two to make it work, but there’s something to be proud of in having a place you call your own.
Being a caregiver when you are young and living in the family home can be a crutch that prevents you from growing up, experiencing life, and gaining knowledge. I know many young caregivers who are still living with and caring for their parents who are angry and resentful. Get a job and move out.
I know other adult children who have moved out and moved back in to be full-time caregivers only to find themselves feeling trapped. And yet others who move parents in to live with them. Living with parents when you are an adult is a life-affecting decision.
Use discernment to consider the pros and cons and the effect on your life and your parent’s life short and long-term. Just as there is a time for you to learn, don’t take away learning opportunities away from your parent by making them more dependent on you.
Family caregiving is complicated whether you are 10, 50, or 70. Many caregivers have similar life experiences and there is so much to learn and understand.
The challenge for being a caregiver when you are young is that you lack life experience and knowledge that is difficult to get while living in your parent’s home. If you are very young, you are dependent on your parents for everything.
You may not know that seeking help outside of your family is an okay thing to do. You may not know that talking to school counselors is okay if your parents discourage those types of conversations. If you are in a position where you need help, do whatever you have to do to find the support you need.
7 Spend Time With People Who Are Different From You
If you are young and you have years until you can move out of the family home, create ways to meet different people and have life experiences. Forget this we versus them mentality that the media likes to promote. Most people want the same things—to be loved, accepted, be able to support themselves, do activities they enjoy, have a family, and so on.
So, young caregivers talk to school counselors join committees or teams at school. I realize that your free time may be minimal.
Being a caregiver when you are young can be isolating because you spend so much time at home instead of with school friends. And you may not want to tell your school friends what is going on in your family.
Many young caregivers are depressed and anxious. Older caregivers feel the same way. Your friends may have no way of understanding the stress and responsibilities of caring for a sick parent if they do not.
Find an online or in-person caregiver support group, but be cautious. Make sure the group is geared toward understanding problems and sharing solutions. The last thing you need being a caregiver when you are young is a negative support group that drags you down instead of inspiring or raising you or a group that offers inaccurate or faulty information.
8 Don’t Give Up a Job if You are a Young Caregiver
If you are a young caregiver who is employed, stay that way. Talk with your human resources department to see if there is a company caregiver group. Most of all, don’t hide that you are caring for your parents from your employer.
While being a caregiver for a parent can be a wonderful experience, being an unpaid family caregiver doesn’t pay your rent or fund your care needs or retirement when you are older. The way to have choices later in life is to make wise choices today even if that means setting boundaries around the care you can provide to a loved one.
Do whatever you have to do to fulfill your work responsibilities instead of quitting. Believe it or not, your co-workers provide an outlet for socialization, just as your job does. Work may be your only social outlet if you are a young caregiver living with your parents.
You worked hard to get this far. Do not give you a job. Do not go backward. Ask the workplace about flexible schedules and family leave if available, working weekends, and whatever you must do to remain employed.
Resources exist for family members who are unable to pay for their own care. Don’t feel like you have to sacrifice your financial future to fund the care of a parent. Investigate Medicaid and other social service programs.
Resources for Caregivers of All Ages
There is so much more to know about being a caregiver when you are young that it’s impossible to talk about all of it here in a single podcast, article, or video. If you found your way here, listen to the other 100 plus podcasts to learn more, watch hundreds of videos on my YouTube Channel, read the articles in my caregiver library and blog posts.
Because of my personal and professional caregiving and health experience, I take the responsibility to educate family caregivers of all ages seriously. All of the information offered is authentically me – based on my personal and work experience and expert knowledge that I gather from health experts and researchers. If you want to speak with me personally, visit my website to schedule a 1:1 telephone or virtual meeting.
Pay it forward. Please share The Caring Generation and my website, PamelaDWilson.com, with everyone you know who is interested in proven, reliable tips, information, resources, and research about caregiving, aging, health, and everything in between.
This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, advocate, and speaker. I look forward to being with you again soon. God bless you all. Love to everyone. Sleep well tonight. Have a fabulous day tomorrow and a great week until we are here together again.
Find More Support for Caregivers on Pamela’s Resource Page
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