Children Often Care for Parents With Disabilities
The number of young people caring for parents with debilitating conditions is "large and expected to grow" as advances in medicine and technology allow people with such conditions to live longer, the Wall Street Journal reports. The conditions include Lou Gehrig's disease, multiple sclerosis, lupus, cancer and heart disease.
A 2005 study funded by the U.S. Administration on Aging and conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the United Hospital Fund Foundation found that as many as 1.3 million to 1.4 million children in the U.S. ages eight to 18 provide care for a family member with a chronic illness or disability, and more than 400,000 child caregivers are younger than age 12.
The study was based on a two-part survey that included a random sampling of 2,000 households and follow-up interviews with children and other family members.
It found that nearly 60% of child caregivers helped their family members bathe, dress or eat. About 25% of the children had no help with such tasks, and about half said caregiving took a significant amount of their time, the study found.
In addition, the study found that about 60% of the children came from households that earned less than $50,000 per year, according to the study.
According to the Journal, few of the families can afford in-home health care, which costs about $140 to $180 per day, and most private insurance plans do not cover such services. The Journal reports that the children "often have little choice" in providing care because many "live in single parent homes, with only the infirm parent" and in two-parent homes, the healthy parent might be working.
Nancy Law of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society said, "If a family breaks apart because the burden becomes too much for a child, you're talking about two institutional placements: The parent in a nursing home and the child in the foster-care system" (Ansberry, Wall Street Journal, 1/5).