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Grand Caregivers

By Paul Wynn

(Page 3 of 3)

Finding balance

No matter what the age or circumstance, providing care to grandparents is extremely challenging and disruptive to the lives of grandchildren. Sara Gerilee Fischer, 24, of Hatboro, Pennsylvania, knows the challenges first-hand. Fischer, who lost both parents as a teenager, developed a close bond with her grandmother, Lois Vinter. “She was my best friend – we talked several times each day – and when she got sick with cancer, I knew that I would take care of her.”

Rather than arrange for her to live in a nursing home, Sara moved her “Mom Mom” into her house. It was a long 12 months, and there were times when Sara had to leave the house to clear her mind because it was so overwhelming, but she would do it all over again. “My Mom Mom took care of people all of her life. She deserved to be taken care of by family during her last few weeks.”

“When grandchildren face the possibility of being a caregiver, there are several guiding principles that can assist with the new role,” says Ruth Drew, MSW, director of family and information services at the Alzheimer’s Association. Drew, who has a great deal of experience working with caregivers, says that it’s vital for grandchildren to find ways to connect with their grandparent, but also to find ways to relieve stress.

“Not every grandchild is going to be a full-blown caregiver, but sitting down and holding hands and having a conversation can be very therapeutic for a grandparent,” explains Drew.

Many national and local health agencies provide a variety of resources for caregivers. For instance, the U.S. Administration on Aging provides an online locator to find assistance with meals, health insurance and local transportation.

“It’s important to find a support system,” says Dunham. “Grandchildren should be open to the experience of caregiving for their loved ones, but should find as many resources as possible from their community of family, friends and fellow caregivers,” he says. “Find a way to continue to have balance in life and do things that you most love and cherish, even if you do them less often.”

Paul Wynn writes about health-related topics for many national magazines. He currently resides in Garrison, NY.

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