April 8th and 9th, I’m speaking at the Owensboro Community and Technical College in Owensboro Kentucky, and at every caregiving workshop and talk I give, I meet young men and women who are caring for an elderly grandparent. Many of them have moved in with their grandmother or grandfather and while they’re going to college or working a job, they come home each evening to spend time with the “older generation.” They do home chores, coordinate doctor visits–and what’s amazing is–no one is making them do this. They’re caregiving their grandparents because they want to.
Here’s Why Grandchildren Care for Their Grandparents: (In their own words)
“My parents divorced when I was young and my grandmother was the one person who was really there when I was a child.”
“I’ve always felt close to my grandparents–why wouldn’t I pitch in?”
“Living with my grandmother is a lot easier than living with my mother. Our living arrangement has worked out well. She needs a little help and I need a place to stay. Besides, she’s a lot of fun.”
“Our family is small. I don’t want to miss the time we have left. My grandparents give me a sense of family legacy I wouldn’t have without them.”
“If my Mom and I didn’t help out with our granddad, he’d have to go to a care home–he’s not very social and I don’t think he’d be happy there. We take him to the store and to the library. Mom and I take turns driving him to doctor appointments–and what’s nice is that my children get to know their granddad.
Caring for a grandparent carries a unique reward. Many of us are close to our grandparents because they doted on us as children. Grandparents are oftentimes their grandchildren’s babysitters or their grandparent even had custody of them. So in many cases, the grandchild has spent more time with their grandparent than with their parent.
It also speaks to the power of family. Many young adults want to keep those connections alive. They don’t feel they have a lot of family history–especially if they’ve experienced divorce, death, or an illness in the family–it’s even more important.
What are the challenges a grandchild faces while caregiving a grandparent?
- Dealing with elder-care illness and doctor appointments.
- Feeling “old” or weighed down at a young age.
- Juggling their own school, work, or children’s schedules along with their caregiving responsibilities.
- Conflicts with siblings or other family members who won’t help out.
- Shouldering some of the finanical costs that come with elder-care.
Amy, a friend of mine is 32. She lived with her grandparents for 5 years–during and after college. “I wouldn’t trade that time for anything in the world. Sure, it was hard, but I loved them so much. My Gramps died the second year–and my Grams died last year–I had to place her in a home because her dementia got so bad I couldn’t care for her and continue to work–and I had to work. Still, I know I did the best I could for both of them,” Amy says.
“As a young caregiver, there may be plenty of challenges, so be sure to ask for lots of help–but as I said–I’d do it all over again,” Amy continued.