I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Facing Cancer with Grace, I will focus on caregiving. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is E is for Exercise Increases Creativity.
Young adults, ages 18-26 take a close second to infants, when it comes to being overlooked and under-supported, as they live with a parent’s cancer diagnosis. To drop them off the radar when they turn 18 is really a disservice to them. Even though their emotional and physical growth has slowed down, having an adult body does not always mean being grown-up. Children continue to develop emotionally and neurologically until they are twenty-six years old. It’s shocking when you consider that many children of cancer patients are also young adult caregivers.
The stage of emerging from adolescence to adulthood can be a complex yet exciting time of growth. Young adults are focusing on themselves, their education, career, marriage, and sexuality. Finding out that a parent has cancer during this time can be a huge shock to an eighteen to twenty-six-year-old, especially if they are thrust into the role of a caregiver. They’ve barely finished high school, and have all sorts of plans for their life. They may be transitioning to college.
Young Adult Caregivers in College
Young adults comprise 12–18% of adult caregivers, and the average age of a young adult caregiver is 21 years old. Many young adult caregivers are attending college. Research has found that caregiving by college students has been associated with:
- Greater difficulty transitioning to college,
- Less social interaction
- Higher levels of stress and depression
- Stress due to inexperience in fulfilling caregiver duties
Often they have to change what school they were going to attend, take time off, or completely quit college because of their parent’s illness. Their mind (and often their time) is so focused on caring for their parent with cancer that it’s difficult to give school or their job their full attention and effort.
Just getting on their feet
Young adults Caregivers are thinking about starting their career, and sometimes of getting married. Everything they looked forward to is on hold so that they can do the right thing. They may go from being a child to being a caregiver—and they are not yet done developing. They might feel a sense of isolation within their peer groups because it is difficult for their friends to understand what they are going through. Since young adults have a strong need for community, this can leave them feeling very alone. Support can be the difference between young adult caregivers who prosper and those who will struggle.
Helpful Tips for Young Adult Caregivers
- Seek out guidance and support.
- Don’t be discouraged when you make mistakes. That is one of the ways you will learn.
- Find positive role models.
- If you are starting, or are already in college, make an appointment with your academic counselor to discuss a plan in case the patient’s health begins to impact your grades.
- If your loved one’s cancer is terminal, address the possibility of them dying during their time at the school.
- Talk with your financial aid adviser to see how any scholarship or loans will be affected by a hiatus of 6 months to a year, in case you need to take some time off.
- Check in with your school’s mental health adviser. Even if you are handling things well now, it’s a good idea to know who you can reach out to if things change and you need extra support.
- Many employers offer mental health services. Set up an appointment with a therapist through your medical insurance plan.
- You might need to try out more than one in order to find someone who you connect with.
It’s important to get the support you need to get through this time. Remember, you’re not alone, there are therapists, counselors, and even online and community support groups to help you through this.
I’m in the early stages of putting together a resource page for caregivers of cancer patients. I’d love it if you’d check it out and email me any suggestions of resources you’d recommend. While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage you on your cancer journey.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
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In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com
I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker