When a Grandchild Becomes a Caregiver

When a Grandchild Becomes a Caregiver

In Health, Inspiration by Companions for Seniors

When you think of unpaid or informal family caregivers, the first image that pops to mind may be an adult man or woman in their 50s or 60s taking care of an aging parent. While many caregivers certainly do fall into this category, there is another significant group of people providing care to the elderly while balancing careers, families, and goals of their own: grandchildren. 

Here in the Chicago area and around the country, many adult grandchildren serve as primary caregivers for their senior loved ones. This growing group faces some unique caregiving challenges — and may benefit from some additional support from their caregiving network, including professional home care services. 

Called to Serve: When Adult Grandchildren Become Caregivers

According to 2015 data cited by the AARP, about one in four caregivers is a millennial. Additional research cited by Seniorly suggests that as many as one out of every 12 caregivers is responsible for caring for a grandparent. 

A study from Pew Research Center, meanwhile, suggests that nearly 53% of “multigenerational caregivers” — that is, adults tasked with caring for a senior loved one and one or more children, at the same time — fall between the ages of 30-44. Another 15% of multigenerational caregivers are aged 18-29. 

Grandchildren may fall into caregiving for a number of reasons, as caregiving expert Carol Bradley Bursack explains for AgingCare. In some cases, the grandparent may have been responsible for raising the grandchildren, making them the logical caregiver when the senior adult needs extra support and care. In other situations, the grandchild may live closest to the senior, or have the best personal relationship with them. 

Some seniors may be more likely to trust their grandchildren, and may listen closely when they try to bring up important conversations like easing back on driving or managing their medications. On the flip side, however, younger caregivers may not be “accorded the respect or authority of spouses or adult children by other family members,” as Barry J. Jacobs puts it in a great post for the AARP. This “ambivalence” and lack of respect is just one of the many issues and challenges that younger caregivers may face as they step into this important role.  

Common Caregiving Challenges for Younger Adults

Like all informal caregivers, grandchildren may face some significant challenges when caring for their senior loved one — and these issues “can be compounded for those who are still young,” as Bursack explains. 

As she puts it: 

“… most caregivers are either adult children who have at least matured into their 40s or 50s, or else they are mature spouses of the ill person. These caregivers have a few decades of living behind them and hopefully have been able to enjoy some young years where their responsibilities, at the most, were to take care of themselves, a spouse and their children.” 

Grandchildren who may be in their 20s or early 30s, however, face “the same 24/7 emotional rollercoaster” as older caregivers — but “have a smaller stash of experience behind them, and far fewer understanding peers from whom they can get support.”

At the same time, studies show that young adult caregivers face some unique responsibilities and issues in providing care. According to data from the AARP, for example, millennial caregivers are almost twice as likely as older caregivers to “to be caring for someone with emotional or mental health issues,” which can place a high emotional strain on them. Data from Pew Research Center also suggests that multigenerational caregivers younger than 30 spend more time on both adult and child care per day than older generations, devoting “more than three hours a day engaged in this kind of work, compared with just over two hours a day among those ages 45 to 59.”

The AARP also notes that millennials tend to spend “a higher percentage of their income than older caregivers on such expenses as modifying the home of the person they are caring for,” while “paying for food and other costs, such as transportation” — despite having a lower household income, on average. 

Younger caregivers may also face the duties of caregiving with less support than their older peers — from friends and family, and in the workplace. 

Young adults are just as likely as older caregivers to have to take time off work to care for a family member, and 54% of millennial caregivers say that caregiving has “significantly affected their work,” according to the AARP. At the same time, however, the AARP notes that “millennial caregivers are much less likely than their older counterparts to discuss their caregiving challenges with supervisors or colleagues at work.” 

Per one study, only 46% of millennial caregivers are open to talking about their adult care responsibilities with their supervisors, compared to 60% of older family caregivers.

Getting Support and Help

Caregiving is a profound and meaningful act of love, but it can be challenging and stressful, even under the best of circumstances. If you are an adult caring for an aging grandparent, it is incredibly important to remember that you don’t have to go through the ups and downs of caregiving alone. 

There are many resources that can help you balance your load, and make this important duty easier to manage. For example, there may be local businesses that can provide essential services that make life easier for you and your loved one, including meal delivery services, laundry pick-up, and even in-home banking and medical services. Look for caregiver support groups in your area so you can have somewhere to share your thoughts and get helpful advice. You can also search for helpful resources through your local area agency on aging. 

Whenever possible, see if you can get other people involved in caring for your aging loved one. Your senior loved one’s neighbors may be willing to lend a hand when you cannot, and there may be people that your loved one respects, such as a religious leader or an old colleague, who can help step in for important conversations when you need a little back-up.

Finally, consider enlisting some outside help from a professional companion care service. Also known as home care and respite care, this type of long-term care can give your older loved one the personalized support they need to live a full and healthy life in the comfort of home — while giving you back as much time as you need for work, school, or family. 

A senior companion can help step in when you need a break, on a flexible schedule that is accommodating of your time and budget. Depending on your loved one’s needs, a companion can provide a variety of helpful services, including: 

It’s all about finding what works for your senior loved one – and for your unique wants and needs as a family caregiver. 

Want to Understand Your Options? We’re Here for You

New to caregiving and curious about what you can do to set yourself up for success? Have any questions about empowering an elderly loved one to age in place? Ready to help the caregiver in your family get some well-deserved rest? We are here and ready to help, in whatever way we can.

At Companions for Seniors, providing exceptional care for the elderly is our passion, and we’re always happy to help guide you in the right direction.

Our mission is to help aging adults live independently and with dignity in the comfort of their own home, by empowering them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships.

We are locally owned in Chicago, with clients in the city and suburbs. All of our companions are trained and bonded, and can assist your loved one by providing a wide variety of home care services. From one hour to 24 hours a day, we can be there for your loved one, and for you. We understand that every situation is unique, so we provide a personalized care plan that’s modified to meet each client’s specific needs. Our services are covered by many long-term care insurance policies, and in most cases we can be up and running in less than two days.

Curious if home care is going to be the right fit for you? Want to talk about your circumstances in more depth? Give us a call at 866-910-9020, or reach out online to keep the conversation going!