The Unique Challenges of Being a Caregiver for a Grandparent
Grandchildren probably aren’t the first people you think of when you envision family caregivers. But the truth is that one in 12 grandchildren acts as a caregiver for a grandparent.
According to research conducted by the National Alliance and AARP, grandchildren over the age of 18 make up almost 10 percent of the caregiver population. That translates to 5.3 million grandchildren who are actively caring for a grandparent. Experts say that this is a trend that is likely to gain momentum as the average age in this country continues to climb.
Challenges of Caring for a Grandparent
Younger caregivers face many of the same challenges as their older peers: lack of sleep, anxiety, and financial pressures. But there are a few significant differences.
- Grandchildren often put starting their adult life on hold to care for a grandparent. They may delay going to college or even drop out of high school to fulfill their caregiving duties. This can put them behind their peers once their caregiving days are behind them and it’s time to begin a career.
- Caregiving can be very emotional for family caregivers of all ages. Watching a loved one’s physical or cognitive abilities decline is tough. Younger caregivers might not have the emotional maturity required to manage these difficulties. It can increase the risk for behaviors like smoking and drinking too much alcohol.
- Because caregiving often comes with round-the-clock responsibilities, grandchildren might see their social circle diminish. This may come at a time when peers are dating, beginning new careers, and enjoying the freedom that comes with young adulthood.
It can all add up to a rewarding but challenging time in life.
Resources for Grandchildren Who Are Caregivers
There are several ways you can help someone you know who is caring for a grandparent. The first is to encourage them to connect with an online support group. Many are made up of younger people who are caring for a family member.
Another step is to help them explore financial assistance. Grandchildren might be eligible to be paid for caring for a grandparent. Here are two of the leading resources:
- Medicaid: In most states and in the District of Columbia, caregivers of older adults who have limited financial resources might be eligible for payment. Program titles range from state to state, but common ones include Consumer Directed Care and In-Home Supportive Care. Contact your state’s Medicaid office to learn more.
- Veteran-Directed Care: This program provides financial support to help veterans who qualify live independently or in the community. The veteran receives flexible funding to help pay for care, and that includes paying a family caregiver.
While the approval process for these programs can take some time, they are worth exploring.
Our final suggestion for helping a friend who is responsible for a grandparent’s care is to help them find a local respite provider. Respite can be a solution to consider when a caregiver needs to take a break to relax and enjoy their own life. An older adult can stay at a senior living community like Sunrise for a few days or up to one month.