Typically, we don’t think of grandchildren stepping into the caring role for their grandparents in the UK. Whilst it is commonplace in other cultures, here it is only becoming more of the norm as grandparents live longer and their grandchildren enter adulthood and are suited to a caring role. Yet, it’s very under recognised; we don’t even have data to tell us how prevalent it is. At Eastleigh, we are here to support the whole family as they care for ageing loved ones and we recognise that taking care of grandparents brings its own unique challenges.
In our experience, grandchildren taking care of grandparents fall into this role at a point when they are only just finding their feet in adulthood. There seem to be multiple reasons why it happens, and why caring doesn’t fall to the immediately younger generation of sons and daughters. Often it’s a matter of practicality, with the ‘sandwich generation’ being unavailable due to being at the peak of their career, or through their own ill health.
Regardless of the reasoning, caring for a grandparent when in your late teens or twenties comes with its own concerns. Often there are conflicts between the caring responsibilities of the young adult and their own busy life, starting out on their career or still in education, and as yet not having the financial freedom to make things easier. Indeed, we’ve even seen caring for grandparents result in the delay of life plans including parenthood and international moves.
As with all carers, it is important that if you are caring for a grandparent, you fully understand the level of care needed and view this alongside what you are able to give. It is rare that care needs simply arise overnight. Instead, they can increase gradually, making it difficult for the person doing the caring to recognise when they are no longer in a position to provide all of the care. There’s a huge difference between popping in with some shopping once a week and providing companionship, and being worried that your grandparent is unable to get dressed without you there.
It is not a failing to recognise that you may need help. It is at times like this when residential care can restore the relationship between grandparent and grandchild, providing the home-from-home security and support that is needed. This allows the loving bond to flourish without either party feeling out of their comfort zone.
There is plenty that grandchildren can do to for their grandparents as they need more care. Taking care of grandparents can include:
It’s important to recognise when caring for a grandparent is impacting on your wellbeing, or theirs. Typically we have seen problems in the following areas:
If you are able to pass the responsibility for making care decisions to someone older within the family, you may find this to be beneficial to you both. However, there are other avenues of support.
At Eastleigh, we’re here to support the whole family in providing the right care for their loved one. Do get in touch if you need our help.