• Youthful Caregiving: A Bittersweet Reality

      Sheppard, Kate G.; Donovan, Brenda; Sheppard, Kate G.; Russell-Kibble, Audrey; Peek, Gloanna J. (The University of Arizona., 2017)
      Purpose: The purpose of this study was to describe the psychological effects on adult mental health of former young caregivers who provided primary care in youth; specifically, the positive and negative aspects of caregiving in youth and how childhood memories and experiences of caregiving affect the former child caregiver's adult mental health. Background: Caregiving is a rapidly emerging public health concern and the incidence of being a young caregiver is on the rise. Research shows the caregiver role effects both the physical and mental well-being of the caregiver; however, there is a paucity of information on the long-term effects of youthful caregiving on adult mental health and its impact on their psychological, social, and emotional development. Research suggests that providing primary care has both positive and negative consequences on children. ` Method: To gain a further understanding into the experiences of former young caregivers, three nurses, a Telemetry nurse, a Nephrology nurse, and a Nurse Practitioner were interviewed to form the case study. A content analysis of the interview data was performed to identify commonalities, emotional memories, past and current triggers, and reflections to provide a deeper insight into the perspectives of each participant as they shared their views on the positives and challenges experienced as a young caregiver, in addition to the impact caregiving has had on their adult mental health. Findings: Common positive experiences shared between participants included benefit finding, social support, and influence of self-identity and career choice. Common challenges experienced involved lack of education and resources, impact on school performance, impact on friendships, impact on physical health, unresolved anger, and depression. Their experiences were dependent on several factors such as their age and gender, school status, gender of the care recipient, progression or severity of the illness/disability, and family closeness; however, the three common variables having the greatest influence on mental health was parentification, social support, and becoming a wounded healer. Implications and Conclusion: The data from this qualitative descriptive study broadens our awareness into the importance of identifying this hidden population and the need for development of effective services aimed and preventing and treating depression.