Tuesday, August 28, 2007

In the News: Young Caregiver Helps Mother with MS

After her first day of classes this week at the University of North Carolina's campus here, Aleyna Castillo crossed a field, passing joggers and cyclists and students sprawled on the grass, reading in the sunshine. She didn't linger at her brick dormitory. The Loudoun County teenager got into her car and drove 10 minutes to her other home.

There, in a darkened bedroom, her mother lay propped up in bed, a fan humming. Castillo brought a damp washcloth for Lynn Turner to wipe her flushed face with and a toothbrush with a Dixie Cup to spit into. She brushed her mother's hair and offered strawberries to supplement her breakfast of Pop-Tarts. Castillo's 9-year-old cousin, Anthony McNeil, dribbled a soccer ball down the hallway. "Change your shirt," she hollered after him.

Castillo, 18, is one of many teenagers across the country who are caregivers for ill or disabled relatives — a little-known group that labors under unusual stress and with few resources. Her mother has multiple sclerosis, a degenerative neurological disease that has left the 40-year-old in a wheelchair, unable to work, make dinner or shower without help. For the past year and a half, Castillo has bathed her, prepared her meals, emptied her catheter bag and given her two dozen kinds of medication. She helps take care of Anthony, too, getting him off to school and reminding him to take out the trash.

This is an excerpt from a front-page article in the Saturday issue of the Washington Post by staff writer Michael Alison Chandler. Click here to read the entire story.

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