A recent high school graduate, Gabe grew up in a household with his mom, 3 siblings (he is the youngest), and his grandpa who had a serious mental illness. Gabe spent much of his childhood helping around the house and caring for his grandpa. Being a caregiver at such a young age was difficult as he didn’t really know how to handle his grandpa’s outbursts, wandering or talking to himself. His behavior was confusing, but it was also Gabe’s norm.
As Gabe got older, his responsibilities grew. By 8th grade, he was routinely helping his family by doing the laundry and grocery shopping. Once Gabe could drive, he would take his grandpa to his medical appointments. Living in Florida, the family has had to worry about disaster preparedness because they had to factor in his grandpa’s mental health condition, his age, his ability to leave the house, and their ability to get him to safety.
Gabe has always felt older than his peers. He routinely had to miss out on school opportunities and events, because there was always stuff that had to be done. He says he essentially became the man of the house. He was able to fix things when they broke, and he helped his mom make family decisions. While Gabe was juggling home, school, and caregiving, his mom was juggling home, work, and caregiving. She was burnt out too. He was often frustrated, but he learned to deal with each moment, each day.
Although his grandpa passed away in 2020, Gabe has been shaped by his caregiving journey and wants the memory of his grandpa to live on. Gabe wishes society would remember that it’s not just the person who needs care that needs help—the family needs help, too. He wishes more people would talk about mental health. He has struggled with his own mental health and knows how hard it is to share those feelings. He thinks society should view caregiving as a team sport—in which everyone works to help each other.