Obviously, there are many types of caregivers. Young, old, male, female, family caregivers, paid caregivers, children caring for aging parents, spouses, friends. We are focused on siblings and young adults who are not the typical caregivers and, therefore, do not receive much attention.
The typical caregiver is a middle-aged woman caring for her aging parents. But young adult caregivers are growing in number. In 2000, there were an estimated 3.6 million to 5.5 million unpaid young adult caregivers between the ages of 18 and 40 in the U.S., who made up between 12%-18% of all adult caregivers. In 2015, there was a huge increase to an estimated 19.1 million young adult caregivers between the ages of 18 and 49 in the U.S., which was nearly half (48%) of all adult caregivers. And it is estimated that in 2015, at least 5.6 million adults care for young adult patients who are between the ages of 18 and 49, and they are 7 years younger on average than the typical caregiver; of these, 13% care for a sibling or sibling-in-law (that’s at least 728,000 sibling caregivers in the U.S. last year.) Sadly, approximately 72,000 adolescents and young adults aged 15-39 are diagnosed with cancer each year and cancer has become the number one disease killer in young adults.
The statistics illustrate that there are large numbers of us, young adult caregivers. And, likely, many of us are caring for a young person with cancer, who have been identified as an under-served patient population. We also have other responsibilities such as graduate schooling, careers, marriage and/or parenthood that make this time of our lives overwhelming as we are pulled in multiple directions. We owe it to ourselves, to each other, and to those that we are caring for to figure out better ways to support us and lessen our burden.