Jordan wakes at 6 a.m. She helps her mother, who is recovering from surgery for breast cancer, into the bath. Jordan has it all timed. She gulps down breakfast as her mother bathes, and returns to help her out of the tub. "I'll make sure her bandages are clean and didn't get too wet," Jordan says. "And if they did get too wet, I change them."Her mother is disabled from painful fibromyalgia, so Jordan takes her to her room, where her mother can dress herself. That gives Jordan a chance to get ready for school and walk the dog before her mother, slowly moving into the car, drives her to school.In the evening, Jordan, who asked to be identified by first name only, tends to the family's animals. She helps her mother into bed and wraps a thermal blanket around her. Finally, she has a chance to eat dinner, do homework and wind down before going to sleep. Bedtime can be past midnight for the Florida ninth-grader. It's a long day for a 14-year-old.
About 1.4 million children between ages 8 and 18 are caregivers nationwide, according to the American Association of Caregiving Youth. Evenly divided between girls and boys, about a third are between 8 and 11, and nearly 40 percent are between 12 and 15. Most often, the family member is a parent or grandparent, with a condition such as Alzheimer's disease or dementia; heart, lung or kidney disease; arthritis or diabetes.