Grandparents play a pivotal role in many families. As life expectancy has increased, more children are fortunate to have a grandparent actively involved in their lives. Grandparents often help with transportation to school events, babysit during summers, and take vacations with younger generations. The bonds that are built during these activities can last a lifetime.
When the situation changes, and a grandmother or grandfather is the one who needs assistance, the younger generation is frequently stepping in to help. Research conducted by the National Alliance and AARP, shows that 5.3 million grandchildren over the age of 18 are acting as a caregiver for a grandparent. They comprise 10 percent of the entire family caregiver population.
As we all continue to struggle with the COVID-19 crisis, having a grandchild as a caregiver can bring peace of mind and companionship. It’s a meaningful connection that can make anxious days brighter.
While most grandchildren are happy to help care for a grandparent, they might not have the life experience to understand how to cope with a loved one’s serious illness. If you know of a young person in this situation, we have a few tips they might find useful.
Caregiving Advice for Grandchildren
1. Follow COVID-19 best practices: Unless you are quarantining in the same house as your grandparent, you’ll need to make sure you aren’t putting them at risk. Wash your hands often. Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth, and make sure your grandparent keeps one on too. Use bleach to wipe down surfaces. Talk with the senior’s physician for more advice on protecting the senior from the coronavirus.
2. Learn healthy ways to manage stress: Caregiving is stressful. The role often requires loved ones to juggle a variety of challenges every day. When you add in the stress of watching the health of a much-loved grandparent decline, it can be exceptionally emotional. It’s important to take time out for healthy stress-buster activities. Walking, spending time with friends, meditation, listening to music, yoga, and journaling are a few suggestions to consider. Engaging in productive activities can help prevent bad coping techniques from creeping in, like overeating, smoking, or consuming too much alcohol.
3. Make time for yourself: While caring for a grandparent is a noble and rewarding experience, grandchildren need to make time to enjoy their own lives. If there aren’t other family members who can pitch in, it may be beneficial to hire an in-home caregiver. Be sure to screen any agency you choose to make sure they follow COVID-19 safety practices.
4. Connect with other caregivers: The challenges of caregiving can be quite unique. Connecting with peers who understand can be helpful. There are online support groups that make this much easier to do. The Family Caregiver Alliance and ALZ Connected are two popular choices.
Finally, accept that you might not be able to maintain the role forever. If you are overwhelmed and struggling to manage all of your responsibilities, it may be time to for an assisted living or memory care community for your grandparent.
Call Sunrise Senior Living at 888-434-4648 to learn how we are balancing the needs of seniors searching for care with the safety concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic.