Spotlight on Longfellow MS Students Charlie and A.J. Poole and Their Campaign to Support Youth Caregivers
Charlie Poole, an eighth grader at Longfellow Middle School, and his brother A.J., a seventh grader, are not typical middle school students. The brothers recently presented the keynote speech to adults attending the American Association of Caregiving Youth conference where they talked about the advocacy website they developed and how to help and support youth caregivers.
The Poole brothers developed A Little Bit of Happy, a website designed to provide ways that people and organizations can identify, recognize, and reward kids aged 18 and younger who are currently caretaking for a family member with Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, or another care-intensive condition at home. The website helps spread awareness of young caregivers, outlines what caregivers can experience, provides resources for parents, and offers information on helping kids recover when serving as caregivers. They also have a Facebook page that chronicles their experiences and advocates for youth caregivers. The Pooles were 10 and 12 when their grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s Disease, moved into their McLean home. They helped their parents care for her until her death in June 2015.
“Our hope is to communicate with dignity on the subject,” say the Pooles on their website. “If you are a kid caretaking for someone with Alzheimer’s or anything else, we know this is probably one of the toughest times of your life, we hope to help you get through this and maybe make a few things easier.”
One goal of the website is to have students be identified as caregivers, supported by teachers and counselors, and to be able to learn service learning hours and recognition for the time they dedicate to caregiving. A Little Bit of Happy includes a number of articles that focus on how youth caregivers are frequently overlooked and the challenges and risks they face when taking on this role.
Over 1.4 million kids in the United States are currently caretaking for a family member with a memory-related or other condition requiring intensive attention and care in the home.