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Embracing the Role as Grandchild Caregiver

Your grandparents were always there for you, whether it was buying you an ice cream when you scraped your knee or offering you sage advice as you started your journey into adulthood.

Now it’s your turn to be there for them and that can be a challenge. How do you help care for the people who once cared for you? You are not alone.

According to a 2015 AARP study, there are more than five million grandchildren who serve as the primary caregiver for a grandparent. That role comes with a considerable weight of responsibility, especially for someone building a career and a family of their own. But just remember, this is also a challenging time for your grandparent, who must deal with this complex role reversal.

What could be an awkward situation for both grandparent and grandchild, however, also carries many benefits. Bonds grow stronger and that sense of family means even more.

It is important in your new role of caregiver to be compassionate and respectful, helping your grandparent more easily accept the change in the relationship.

Here are a few ways in which a grandchild can make this transition easier for a grandparent.

Be Polite. If your grandparent asks the same question repeatedly or has difficulty hearing, remain calm and listen patiently without interrupting. If you begin feeling frustrated, take a five-minute break to regain your composure. Above all, interact with them in a way that shows you care.

Be Cheerful. Some days will be demanding, or maybe you are just having an off-day yourself. Remain positive and upbeat and remind yourself that you are there for someone you love.

Be Inquisitive. Grandparents have a treasure trove of stories about their lives and your family history. Ask them questions and show them that you care about what they have experienced. And don’t only inquire about the past; ask their opinions regarding current events as well.

Be Generous. Most grandparents never forget a grandchild’s birthday. Now, it’s your turn, so don’t forget their birthday or other special days. Give them a gift to show you remember and to celebrate the occasion.

Be Open. Asking your grandparent for advice is beneficial to both sides. Grandparents have a lifetime of experiences to draw upon and they will be honored that you are seeking their opinion. And, most likely, you’ll be getting sound advice, whether it’s about your career, dating, marriage, kids or many other topics.

Be There. Be there for them. Not only in the caregiver role, but as a friend too. Take the time to get to know them better. Watch a movie together. Take a walk in the park. Go to dinner. Listen to music. Play a game. Let them know that you are there not solely for their medical needs or to run errands, but because they are an integral part of your life.

Caring for your grandparents is an act of love and generosity. By treating them with dignity, displaying patience and kindness, and showing interest in their life and experiences, you will develop a closer bond with your grandparent and will also feel better about yourself. Caring for your grandparent can create memories that will last forever.

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