• Paige Kornblue

Caregiving youth could use our support, especially now

Help make the holidays special for youth caregivers, the young people who step up way more than most (wish list links below)

Caregiving is hard, no matter how you slice it.

I know first hand, it isn't easy. I was the primary caregiver for my mom during her battle with cancer and my dad during his struggle with blood pressure issues and dementia.

You name it, it was challenging - the doctor appointments, prescription pickups and changes, falls, phone calls, aide juggles, bills, banking, insurance, groceries, shopping lists, to-do lists, cleaning, organizing, visiting and enjoying coupled with the emotions, the heartache and happiness that comes with it all.

And I'm a 40-year-old mom of three with an incredibly supportive husband, family and network of friends.

So imagine taking on the caregiving role... in your teens.

I recently caught up with 18-year-old Delhaney Alvarez of West Palm Beach to see how it's done.

Watch here for Delhaney's story or read on, toy drive wish list links below:

Delhaney is a high school senior with her sights set on college. Music production is her goal.

"I like to play music and compose music. I play the piano, viola and I play a little bit of the violin and and cello," says Alvarez.

No doubt you can call Alvarez a musician and for the past four years, she has taken on the title of caregiver too after her father's heart attack and subsequent surgeries.

"In the beginning it was definitely hard. You know, suddenly having your father at the hospital, not seeing your mom as much because she's working, going to the hospital, going to buy groceries and then the cycle repeats. My brother had to step up and make sure my sister was going to school," says Alvarez.

Youth caregiver Delhaney Alvarez and her siblings assist at home

Delhaney's story is the story of many. According to the National Alliance of Caregiving, there are over one million caregiving youth between the ages of 8 and 18 in the United States, which is why support from organizations like the American Association of Caregiving Youth, an organization based in South Florida, makes a huge difference.

Family specialists like Gloribel Jimenez support kids in grades six through 12 who care for chronically ill, injured, elderly or disabled family members. The organization works year-round to find ways for the youth in the program to have a respite from their complicated daily lives.

"It’s really tough for them to basically spend their childhood caring for family members, being caregivers, something an adult should be doing," says Jimenez.

This year has been especially challenging due to COVID-19 so the American Association of Caregiving Youth is asking for help in making the youth's holidays memorable. Gifts and toys from their holiday wish lists are just a click away and will go a long way just like the work these youth do day in and day out.

"I have chronic asthma, so my parents, ever since I was two months old have been taking care of me and I saw this as a way of taking care of them... helping my mom with bills, helping her not have so much stress, helping my father make sure he's taking his medicine, making sure he’s all right is truly my way of giving thanks to the years they’ve helped me," says Alvarez.

To help AACY families, you can kindly adopt a family for the holidays or provide a holiday gift. Gifts are listed at all price points. There are three wish lists AACY has created full of gift items specially requested by the more than 400 youths in its program:

Click here for the AMAZON AACY WISH LIST

Click here for the TARGET AACY WISH LIST

Click here for the WALMART AACY WISH LIST

You may also donate new gifts or toys directly to the AACY office located at 6401 Congress Ave, Suite 200, Boca Raton, FL 33487 during normal business hours.

If you wish to Adopt a Family for the holidays, contact Pam Perrin, COO at pam@aacy.org or call 561-391-7401. The cost to adopt an AACY family of five for the holidays is $265 (that includes a Christmas tree and decorations $35, table setting $15, food for family of five $65 and presents for five people $150).

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