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In Addition to Schoolwork, Caregiving Youth Manage and Give Medications
This ground-breaking research delved into the children's responsibilities surrounding medications of all types, including injections. Research participants included 28 middle and high school Palm Beach County caregiving youth, who are enrolled in the Caregiving Youth Project of the American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY).
AACY is the only organization in the U.S. that supports this otherwise hidden population of caregiving youth who are among the more than 1.3 million children, 8-18 years of age in this role (Young Caregivers in the US, 2005). The children struggle daily with multiple caregiver responsibilities including medication management and administration. Until now, the medicine related challenges have been undocumented.
For more than five years, Julia Belkowitz, MD, MPH, Assistant Regional Dean for Student Affairs and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine's Regional Medical Campus, has been participating in the Caregiving Youth Project's Advisory Council. Belkowitz supervised the research of Dr. Nickels.
The study revealed that the responsibilities of these young kids encompasses the organization and administration of the medications. Yet, there was no uniform source of instruction, verification of compliance, or proper disposal of syringes for these significant responsibilities.
Like adult family caregivers, the youth often struggle with getting their loved ones to take their medications. They also have difficulty remembering the names of various medications as well as understanding the purpose and side effects. Worry is common among these youth. Their caregiving roles at home may also take a toll on other aspects of their lives including their education and activities. Of note however, is that often the challenges of the medication administration were easier to overcome than some of their other caregiving responsibilities.
Moving forward, it is imperative that public attention is brought to youth caregivers. This study only scratches the surface of the impact that the youth caregivers' role has on their physical, emotional, and psychosocial health. The importance of youth caregivers in the healthcare delivery system must be recognized by healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies in order to better serve these children and their families.
To learn more about this study, contact Dr. Belkowitz (561.886.1202 or jbelkowitz2@