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There are more and more grandparents taking on a parental role for their grandchildren.  The national census shows there are 2.7 million grandparents raising grandchildren and about one-fifth have incomes below the poverty line.  According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, some common reasons for this to occur include parental substance abuse, abuse and neglect, incarceration, HIV/AIDS, mental or physical illness, teenage pregnancy, abandonment, divorce, and death.  This raises great concern with the well-being of an elderly person as well as the impact this has on the child.  


It is difficult as a young person with children to keep up on the day to day, let alone your own health needs.  Can you imagine being an older adult with health impairments and trying to do this?  The stress of raising children is a lot and added to an elderly person who already had health problems can cause more decline both physically and emotionally.  Depression and anxiety are already a prevalent problem with elderly people and parenting young children could exacerbate this.  There would be less time to focus on themselves as well as loss of time with friends, partners, and other family.  


There is also the issue of being knowledgeable about the current technology kids are using, disciplining strategies being used, and up to date information on childhood development and common childhood problems.  It is frightening to think of how a child might get themselves into a lot of trouble/danger due to a grandparent not understanding things like social media, how predators get a hold of children, bullying, etc.  


The elder is also at a higher risk of abuse.  Most elderly people I see are on a lot of medications and prescription drug abuse is one of the major drug problems facing teens right now.  Once an elderly person has their medications stolen, it is very hard to get them replaced by the doctor or insurance until they are ready to be filled again.  I have seen elderly people suffer for weeks due to this.  There is also a financial aspect as the grandparent often has a hard time not giving to their grandchild. They may go without food and medications they need in order to hand a teenager cash for various activities.


Grandparents raising grandchildren need to be aware of their stress and ready to seek help when there are signs of elevated stress.  These would include irritability, sadness, sleep issues, appetite changes, memory loss, and new diagnosis or anything else that is not normal for the person.  Taking care of oneself will equip them to be a better guardian.  


Western Illinois Home Health Care is a full service provider offering services in your home that make it convenient to continue your responsibilities at home. Our staff is specially trained to help people manage chronic illnesses including depression and anxiety.  We also have a social worker to help find resources and support outside or our agency to meet people’s needs.  If you or someone you know is in need of these services, please call us at 1-800-229-5933.


Amanda Powell, BSW is a Senior Care Manager for Western Illinois Home Health Care


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Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

March 2016

by Amanda Powell