My life as a young caregiver began at the age of 7 or 8. My father died when I was six and shortly thereafter my mother’s health began to decline. I was one of 4 children, so I was not the only caregiver. I remember the tasks in the beginning were simple things like helping with a leg dressing or helping with medications. As I got older, I took on more responsibility such as being responsible for cooking, cleaning, laundry, and helping my mother with bathing and dressing.
I was a caregiver until the age of 13, when my mother became so disabled that she could no longer manage 3 teenagers and my younger sister. At this time she was wheelchair bound and required assistance with toileting and transfers. I did not think my life was that different from my schoolmates, but it was. My family was split up and we were placed in foster care. I had wonderful foster parents. While I was a caregiver, I was a “C” student. After my caregiving stopped, I became an “A” student and graduated in the top 10% of my class.
Looking back, I see that I experienced depression in the 6th grade, due to my family situation. I did not have friends over to my house, mainly because we lived in a dirty house. I was made fun of by my classmates since I did not have new clothes and my mom was “different”.
However, I am thankful for the experience because I gained more from it than I lost. I learned to be independent, self-reliant, a good cook, caring and persistent. I am a nurse and an advocate for young caregivers because of my caregiving experience.
Mary Hibbert, RN, MS