Monday, February 23, 2009

In Turnabout, Children Take Caregiver Role -

In Turnabout, Children Take Caregiver Role -
Experts say that in the United States, the issue is often hidden.

"Some children develop maturity and self-esteem. But others grow anxious, depressed or angry, sacrifice social and extracurricular activities and miss — or quit — school.

“Our society thinks of children as being taken care of; it doesn’t think of children as taking care of anybody,” said Carol Levine, director of families and health care at United Hospital Fund, a health services organization that studied child caregivers.

“Kids who do it well gain confidence,” Ms. Levine said, but “they may be resentful, not do as well in school and feel limited because their role is to be the caregiver.”

Health organizations are increasingly “realizing the extent of what children are doing,” said Nancy Law, an executive vice president of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “Everything from children who become overly responsible” to “the kid who totally rebels and gets into trouble.”

“This is an issue that’s growing,” she said.

A 2005 nationwide study suggested that about 3 percent of households with children ages 8 to 18 included child caregivers. Experts say they expect the numbers to grow as chronically ill patients leave hospitals sooner and live longer, the recession compels patients to forgo paid help and veterans need home care.
Recently, programs have been formed to help children find support. Several Florida schools now have classes and meetings regarding caregiving.

Other countries do more. In Britain and Australia, the census counts child caregivers, and many of them have rights to participate in patient-care discussions and to ask agencies for help or compensation.

Hundreds of programs help them, said Saul Becker, a sociology professor at the University of Nottingham. “It’s such a big issue."

con·cept: In Turnabout, Children Take Caregiver Role -