When someone mentions the word “caregiver,” the last person to pop into the general public’s mind is a teenager. If this is true of you, the statistics I am about to give you will likely shock you.
Believe it or not, an estimated 1.4 million children between the ages of 8 and 18 are caregiving here in the United States.
A dear friend of mine, Harry Urban, founder of the “Forget Me Not” online dementia support community, recently came up with an idea that I just couldn’t get out of my head. He suggested that we work with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America to help raise dementia awareness.
The concept is to create a Dementia Awareness Award for these young scouts. After I made several phone calls, I found out that this project is plausible and best implemented with local scouting councils.
Realistically, many of these young people already may be helping with the care of a parent or grandparent suffering from dementia. More than 6 million children are living with a grandparent in this country, so the chances are highly likely that a dementia-related disease will enter their daily lives at some point.
The Boy Scouts’ motto is “Be Prepared.” That is exactly what this project will implement. To receive this award, Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts ages 11 and up would attend a brief seminar in dementia care and then visit a memory care community, in uniform, and coordinate with an activity director. Every time I think of those Scouts at a facility, I imagine the residents recollecting back to the days when they may have been Scouts. I have spoken with several activity directors and they love the idea.
If you’re interested in learning more or assisting us in this project, please visit my website at www .commonsensecaregiving.com and click on the Scouting Award tab. I firmly believe that getting the youth of America involved in dementia care is a winning situation for both the families and scouting groups.
One of the many lessons I learned while caring for my dad as he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease was the importance of family involvement and support. The families that stick together endure the hardships best.
Gary Joseph LeBlanc was the primary caregiver of his father for a decade after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He can be reached at [email protected] His books, “Managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Behaviors,” “While I Still Can” and “Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfullness” can be found at www.commonsensecaregiving.com.