Purpose: To describe the caregiving provided by children and adolescents for adults with cancer. Because nurses are assuming an increasingly prominent role in working with caregivers, it is necessary to understand young caregivers.
Design: The population of interest was youngsters aged 10 to 19 caring for adults at home with cancer. Eleven children and adolescents in seven families were recruited, 1993–1994, through purposive sampling from hospices and cancer clinics.
Methods: Phenomenologic interviews, ethnographic interviews and selected participant observation experiences, and identification of needs through an unstructured survey were used.
Findings: “Hard, but gratifying” emerged as the dominant phenomenologic description of caregiving. Emergent ethnographic themes indicated caregiving by children and adolescents was an expectation of family life. School and church were described as avenues for social support for youngsters in care-giving situations.
Conclusions: Youngsters aged 10 to 19 are caring for adults with cancer at home. Further descriptive study of youngsters caring for adults with cancer is needed.