When someone mentions the word "caregiver," the last thing that pops into the general public's mind is a teenager. Well, if this is true of you, the statistics I am about to give you will likely shock you.
Believe it or not, there are an estimated 1.4 million caregiving children between the ages of 8-18 here in the United States.
A dear friend of mine is Harry Urban. He is the Founder of "Forget Me Not," an online dementia support community, and he came up with an idea that I just couldn't get out of my head. He suggested that we work with the Boys/Girls 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.
One of the many lessons that I learned while caring for my dad as he suffered from Alzheimer's disease was the importance of family involvement and support. During those difficult times of caring for an ill family member, it's the families that stick together that endure the hardships best. This is a lesson in today's world that seems to be lacking.
As for the scouts, realistically, many of these young people may already be helping in the care of a parent or grandparent suffering from dementia. More than six 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 have had a motto for many years now - "Be Prepared." That is exactly what this project will implement. To receive this award, the 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 parties, the families and all scouting foundations.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. His newly released book, "Managing Alzheimer's and Dementia Behaviors," as well as "While I Still Can" and the expanded edition of "Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfullness" can be found at www.commonsensecaregiving.com.