In caregiving, the more hands on deck, the better. But often primary caregivers arbitrarily decide that some in the family are just too young to participate. This is usually a mistake because the youngest generations can be invaluable in caregiving situations.
Keep in mind participating in caregiving does not necessarily mean taking the sick loved one to the doctor or administering medicine. There are lots of ancillary ways kids and young adults can be involved both directly and indirectly. Here are 3 reasons why you want to include the youngest generations in caregiving:
- The person who is sick usually loves visits from the little ones. No, your 1-year old grandson shouldn’t help your mother take a bath– but it’s likely that your mother will light up when she sees her great-grandson trying to walk. Allow young children to “participate” in the caregiving process by just being themselves. Visits from young children are often very welcome and quite uplifting to those who are sick, disabled and particularly those suffering with a dementia diagnosis. The smallest kids don’t expect a “normal” conversation from someone with dementia and this a nice reprieve for the patient.
- Older kids are capable of taking some of the burden off your shoulders. Depending on their age and skill level, you ask your kids to do chores, right? Have them do a little more to help support the family caregiving efforts. Asking a 10-year old to set the table every night when your aunt is at your home recovering from surgery is not unreasonable.
- It builds character for the kids. I have taught gerontology at the college and graduate level for over 15 years. Many of the traditional-age students (18-22) who take my courses have a tremendous sense of pride over having been part of caregiving in their families. During my college courses I have often taken students on tours of nursing homes, assisted livings and adult day care centers. The students who have previously been personally involved in caregiving seem much more naturally comfortable in such settings, displaying empathy for older and disabled patients.
All generations have something to contribute to caregiving. Including the youngest generations in caregiving is good for you, your older loved ones and them.