As a teenager I was a caregiver for my grandmother and as an adult I cared for my disabled mother. As an adult it was my choice to do this and I do not regret it, as a 15 year old I was not given a choice. I was never asked how I felt about it or if I could even handle it. It took an unbelievable toll on my emotional, mental, and physical health. It is heroic to do this for your parent and every caregiver should be thought of as a hero, but there is a price to pay for it. And this film falls short of showing just how steep this price will be.
In this film 5 families are followed over a three year period with one man who is a Millenial and the others who are teenagers and even one who is as young as eleven. In oher words they are just kids. None of these children appear truly happy in this film and they all appear quite stressed. Yes their parents served their country and these children love their parents and want to help them which is admirable, but it is at the expense of sacrificing their own lives.
The man in this film who is a Millenial, the price he pays is his marriage. He winds up divorced. He has a 15 year old daughter with whom his relationsip is strained, and she is helping him take care of his father. He can afford to place his father in adult day care. He hires an aide to come 3 times a week and bathe his father, since his father stopped bathing on his own-a sign of cognitive decline. However, this is not something most other caregivers can afford. His father, is grateful he isn't in a nursing home but worries about what would happen to him if something happened to his son. His son has no answer for this. His son admits he has sacrified his life for his father.
One of the young girls in this film hates school, keeps to herself and tearfully tells the audience that caring for her father is fun. She says this but the look on her face betrays her. She is not having fun. She states he relies on her, she takes care of him, and she is always making sure he is happy. It is not a child's responsibilty to make sure her parent is always happy. She loves him of course and this girl is doing her best but she should not have to take on this much responsibilty at such a young age. And who is making sure she is happy? No one is asking these kids if they are alright, depressed, upset, stressed, no one is asking them how they truly feel. No one is seeing a counselor or a therapist These children love their fathers and grandfathers and are willing to do anything for them, but they are not doing just anything , they are doing everything. They help with cooking, and making sure their parent takes all their pills and they administer insulin shots and assist with bathing and with hygene-one father is on the couch with his urinal. You can imagine how unpleasant it is to deal with that on a daily basis.
One of the saddest stories is the Veteran who has cancer from being exposed to toxic burning waste, while serving in the Middle East. His 11 year old daughter is helping to take care of him while she also has ADHD and is on the Spectrum and dealing with being bullied. Two issues that would be a challenge for any child alone much less one who is also taking care of their father. Her mother admits that she may have been ignored but not on purpose, but because of having to take care of her husband and his illness.
And that's the next issue, at one point someone states that caregiving should not be thought of as a burden. To state that caregiving should not be viewed as a burden, then what should we consider it? A gift? A blessing? A privilege? Or as the director stated before the film-a joy? It is not a privilege to watch your parent decline before your eyes. It is not a privilege to sacrifice your marriage , your own goals and happiness , your finances, your health or to grow up faster than you should. There is extreme financial burden, and the long term psychological effects this has on one's health results in a legitimate illness known as caregiver's syndrome as well as PTSD.
Perhaps what caregiving should be called is heart breaking. It is stressful, overwhelming, and exhausting. Care givers frequently sacrifrice their own
health and needs to make sure their loved ones have what they need. But we need to pay closer attention to young people taking this on. Yes their parents raised them.
And the man who is the millenial states he took care of his mother and now his father and since they took care of him , it is his responibility to do the same in return. But this is his choice. These children are not given a choice. And they are not being asked "Are you okay?" Too often someone will ask how your parent is doing but will not ask how the caregiving is doing. It is more considerate to at least ask them and stay in tune with their feelings. ..
There is a statistic at the end of this film that shows over 5.4 million children are taking care of parents who are disabled. This is an entire generation committing to this. This film sheds light on some amazing young people who absolutely deserve to be called heroes. But we also need to remember that they are children growing up too soon and they are caregivers who need care themselves.