Given the statistics, most people have come to accept the possibility that they will take on the role of caregiver to both their children and parents at some point in their life. While this has become a common occurrence among baby boomers, there is an emerging set of caregivers who may have never imagined they would take on the role so early: grandchildren.
Today over 5.3 million of the nation’s 65.7 million caregivers are grandchildren over the age of 18. When grandchildren are expected to assume the role of caregiver in their 20s or 30s, the typical time period in which they would begin their careers, they may sacrifice advancing their career and their potential earnings in their lifetime.
Considering that people 85 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population, it has become more common for grandchildren to undertake this nontraditional role. As with all caregivers, grandchildren need to be mindful of themselves and their needs so as to avoid caregiver burnout. If you are a grandchild caregiver, the following tips may help you lighten the load:
- Do not neglect your life or ambitions: While you may find you have less “you” time being a caregiver, you should not invest all your time into caregiving. Do not abandon your dreams or goals, stay in school, and maintain healthy relationships with other family members and friends. You may want to consider bringing your grandparent with you on social outings, so that you can enjoy time with your friends and maintain a social life.
- Educate yourself on your grandparent’s illness or disease: The more you know about their condition, the better suited you will be to handle their care. The less surprise there is in your role, the better. Knowing about your grandparent’s health will make you a more confident and competent caregiver and will alleviate some of the stress associated with the position.
- Join a Support Group: Try to find a support group for other grandchild caregivers in your area, or go to your local community center to see what resources are available to caregivers. Although being a caregiver can be very isolating, that doesn’t mean you should go it alone. Finding support in your peers can be very rewarding.
- Seek help from family members and friends: Caregivers will be the first to tell you, they wish they asked for more help, instead of constantly assuming all the duties. If someone offers to help you out, take them up on it. Everyone needs time to decompress and spend some time away from their care recipient. Do not push help away, embrace it. You deserve it.
Grandchildren who take on the role of caregiver should not sacrifice their future for the present. Despite caregiving duties, the most important thing for grandchild caregivers to remember is to take care of themselves and pursue their aspirations.