Grandparents hold a special place in the hearts of many grandchildren as they are the loving adults in their lives allowed to spoil them as little kids or who impart valuable wisdom throughout their lives. Some grandchildren have such adoration for their Grandma or Grandpa that they devote themselves as caregivers to them when they are adults.
National Grandparents Day is every September, much like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, an opportunity to recognize these special family members. While a visit, a card, a phone call, or a bouquet of flowers will probably do, it’s inspiring to learn how some grandkids have built their lives around caring for a beloved grandparent.
Erin Pratt is a 30-year old chiropractic neurology student who has been caregiving for her 95-year old “Grammie” for the past three years consistently.
“She loves space and independence,” Ms. Pratt said of her grandmother, who lives alone in her own house. “She still drives, but doesn’t like to go out alone.”
In addition to helping her grandmother with errands like grocery shopping, going to doctors’ appointments, and washing the car, Ms. Pratt also tidies up her grandmother’s house.
“My father and my older sister also care for my Grammie, but they both work most days and are not available during the hours that she needs to be to appointments and such,” she explained. “My schedule is more flexible and I am still single, so my time is more open and flexible.”
Ms. Pratt was the recipient of a Caring.com scholarship this year. The scholarship was awarded to help university students who are family caregivers.
“I absolutely love taking care of my Grammie,” she said. “It’s a blessing to be able to do so, never a chore. I think it’s the way life should be—multigenerational. She teaches and helps me more richly with her wisdom when I spend time with her. It helps me to remember to stay balanced in life with service and getting outside of my little world. We are all here to help one another, especially within the bonds of family.”
Brian Schwarze was in his teens when he began providing care for his grandfather, Stan Musial, known to many as a baseball legend who played with the St. Louis Cardinals for 22 seasons.
“I began working with him at his home starting when I was 16,” said Mr. Schwarze. “As his grandchild, it’s no surprise that the bond we had grew from when I was very, very young.”
Mr. Schwarze retired from his own baseball career in 2005 and then became a full-time caregiver to his grandfather for eight years. “I highly doubt most grandchildren mean to be caregivers but out of necessity, it just sort of happens,” he said, adding that he was aided by local non-profit, Memory Care Home Solutions. “I was with Stan 5 to 6 days a week, sometimes 10 hours or more a day. I can only assume most grandchildren are not in a situation where they can spend that much time with their loved one. It was certainly a blessing in disguise to be chosen for a role where I got to know both grandparents as I did. It ended up becoming one of the most important roles I would serve in my life.”
The role of grandchildren as caregivers can be in many forms: as a respite for their parents who may have other young children to care for or as part of a caregiving team that includes various professionals who assist with activities of daily living.
What does it mean to be a family caregiver? For some people it means never taking a break and that's why the theme for November's National Family Caregiver Month is, "Caregiving Around the Clock."
No matter where you live, there is probably an engaging experience for your loved one who is living with dementia to check out. Read about everything from memory cafes to full-size model ships created to help those who are coping with the symptoms of dementia.
Learn more about what elder abuse is and how to create more security for seniors who might be vulnerable to neglect or others forms of abuse.