Most of us associate Alzheimer’s disease with older adults. We assume their caregivers are aging spouses and adult daughters. But an increasing number of caregivers are much younger. In fact, researchers say that almost 1.4 million children and teens between the ages of eight and eighteen are caregivers.
Young Caregiver Statistics
According to the American Association of Youth Caregiving, 72% of young caregivers are providing care for a parent or grandparent who lives with a chronic illness or a disease like Alzheimer’s.
Early onset Alzheimer’s disease strikes adults in their 40s and 50s. This means their children are likely in their teens or even younger.
In recent years several movies shined the spotlight on this challenging issue.
- The movie “Still Alice” won actress Julianne Moore an Academy Award for her performance as a linguistics professor at Columbia diagnosed with familial Alzheimer’s disease. She was just 50 years old.
- The documentary Much Too Young follows young caregivers as they struggle to care for a loved one. It highlights the sadness they feel as they put their lives on hold. In some cases, their caregiver role requires them to drop out of high school. According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 22% of kids who drop out of high school drop-outs say caregiving is the reason.
Caring for Young Caregivers in Michigan
If a young Michigan caregiver you know is struggling to manage all of the demands of this role, you can help in several ways. A few suggestions include:
- Connect them with resources: A young caregiver may not understand there are resources for support in their own neighborhood. You can help connect them by calling organizations such as the Michigan Association of Agencies on Aging. Heritage Senior Communities throughout the state of Michigan have Memory care programs and respite services that might also be of help.
- Keep in touch: Caregiving is lonely work, especially for young people. Depression is quite common among Alzheimer’s caregivers. Stay in touch with the young caregiver in your life whether it is by phone, via Skype or with personal visits.
- Online support of peers: Another way you can help a young caregiver is to connect them with their peers. A teen caregiver might not realize there are other youth experiencing similar challenges. The American Association of Youth Caregiving, com and the Family Caregiving Alliance are all online support groups.
You can learn more about early onset Alzheimer’s disease by contacting the Michigan chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association that is nearest to you.