A new study of Florida middle-schoolers finds that children who are acting as caregivers at home spend nearly two hours each weekday assisting older adult family members, The Washington Post reports.
These young caregivers — 62% of whom are girls and 38% of whom are boys — assist family members suffering from diseases or age-related disabilities by helping them get around, dressing them, feeding them, giving them medications and performing other tasks. And this caregiving is often provided at the expense of the children’s own schoolwork and well-being.
“Our children are sacrificing their academics, their health and well-being in order to provide care,” said Connie Siskowski, a registered nurse who is the founder and president of the Boca Raton-based American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY), the study’s sponsor.
The Florida study follows research published by Caring.com, which suggests caregiving is also taking a toll on older caregivers.
That survey found that one-third of family caregivers spend more than 30 hours per week on caregiving, making it almost the equivalent to a full-time job. Half of caregivers have made changes to their work schedule to accommodate caregiving, while 30% often arrived late or left early and 17% missed a significant amount of work.
The younger caregivers have reported spending a median of 2.5 hours each school day as a caregiver and four hours each weekend. This trend is indicative of a much larger nationwide issue related to child caregiving, The Post writes.
It’s not clear how many child caregivers there are in the United States. The last time a national survey was done was in 2005 — when the National Alliance for Caregiving found at least 1.3 million children between the ages of 8 and 18 were caregivers, or more than the total of elementary and secondary school students in New York, Chicago and the District.
“If anything, trends show that the phenomenon has spread since the last recession among multigenerational families where both parents work and a child is called up to assist another adult,” The Post writes. “It can also be expected to grow as the population ages.”
To read the full Washington Post article, click here.
Written by Emily Study