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By Hannah Lee, Staff Writer
The face of caregivers in the United
States today represents every race, ethnicity and
religious sect. They can be found in virtually
every zip code. And yet, there is still a
population of caregivers that often remains invisible.
It is estimated that 1.4 million children in the United
States participate in the care of a family member or
loved one who is either critically or chronically ill.
Either living in the same home or nearby the ailing
person, these children partake in a wide variety of
activities of daily living including everything from
bathing to shopping. However, they are often not
included in the training or the support structures
designed to help caregivers.
But as a parent who is also a caregiver,
there are ways to help your child ease into but also
successfully maintain a caregiving role.
Often parents want to protect children
from the harsh realities of life. But by not
giving them the proper information they need about the
situation, you can end up doing more harm than good.
“Children worry anyhow, even if they are being told
everything is okay,” explains Laurie Conners, Project
Manager of the American Association of Caregiving Youth.
Expressing your concerns and fears with your children
gives them permission to do the same, preventing them
from dealing with it silently. Also by explaining
the practicalities of the disease and the treatment,
everything from common side effects from certain
medications to potential outcomes, prepares the child
for what to expect so that nothing is a surprise.
Many times when medical professionals
educate and train new caregivers on the different
modalities associated with the disease, children aren’t
involved in learning these necessary techniques. As a
parent, find a way to give your children the skills they
need to do these jobs as easily as they can.
Use the opportunity to teach your children about the
disease and caregiving skills as another way to spend
time as a family.
A way for you to insure your child talks
about what they are going through with the added stress
and responsibility of caregiving is to appoint an
advocate in the family. This is a person outside
of the direct living environment that your child can
visit or call on the phone to voice feeling and problems
they might encounter. This way, even if your child
doesn’t feel comfortable talking to you, there is an
adult accessible to discuss concerns.