If you’re tired, burned out, and looking for more support, don’t underestimate the value of grandchildren.
Growing up, my family and my paternal grandparents lived under one roof. As my grandparents aged, my parents became caregivers and they wisely involved my sisters and I to assume that role as well.
If it takes a village to raise a child, a village is just as important when caring for an older adult. In my grandma’s last month, our “village” surrounded her. Adult children made her food, grandchildren googled options for better care, and great grandchildren provided entertainment, hugs, and good cheer. Teaming together, we were able to offer my grandma better care.
If there are grandchildren around, know that with prompting and teaching, they can brighten the life of an aging adult and help lighten the load of caregiving. Here are some thoughts on involving grandchildren young and old:
1. Encourage short visits – It may be hard to encourage a grandchild, especially those who are not close to their grandparent to make lengthy visits, but encourage short visits letting children know that even a short amount of time can mean a lot. If you have young children, a plethora of artwork flows in from school. Have your child save one “masterpiece” to bring to their grandparent each visit. When you visit, have the child explain the piece to their grandparent and have them tape it on the wall.
2. Remind them to make one minute calls – Just as you remind your children to do their homework or practice piano, remind them to call their grandparents. In doing so, children at any age learn that academics are just as important as caring for others. If a grandchild is in middle school to college, encourage them to call their grandparents just to say hello. This habit can grow compassion in grandchildren as their simple gestures can improve the emotional health of their grandparent. The acknowledgement from a grandchild can be magical.
3. 5 second hugs/love taps – If the attention span of a young grandchild is particularly short, don’t worry. At the beginning and end of every visit to their great grandma, I prompted my children (all 5 years old and under) to give their great grandma a “love tap,” just to let her know we were there. Affection given by all members of the family can spark the best of moods, especially when vision and hearing becomes an issue.
4. Just ask – If grandchildren are older and able to drive, get in the habit of asking them to help bring their grandparent to the store or even doctor’s appointment, if appropriate. While a child/parent relationship can often be filled with emotional baggage, there is often less baggage in the grandparent/grandchild relationship. Having responsible grandchildren help with certain tasks can lighten the load you carry as the primary caregiver.
Having grown up in an intergenerational household, Isabel Tom has 30+ years of experience with seniors, both personally and professionally. She has worked in senior living doing operations, senior fitness and community outreach & education. Currently she manages community education and outreach at a nonprofit hospice. Isabel holds a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Maryland. In addition to being a wife and mother of three little ones, she loves to blog at www.aboutbeingold.com.