The Caregiving squeeze
My upcoming middle grade novel, Time Twisted, is about thirteen-year-old Lea Grant adjusting to her grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s Disease, moving in with her family. There are a lot of other things that happen in this story, but the relationship between Lea and her grandmother is what weaves everything together, and this is what most kids will take away from the story.
For parents though, I think Time Twisted highlights a different topic. Many of us have had to care for aging parents and other family members at the same time we are raising our children. I’ve experienced the “caregiving squeeze” first-hand, and I hope that this blog will open a discussion about the topic.
It’s a big change for a family when an elderly relative either moves in, or begins to require more help to successfully live alone. Caregiving starts out slowly, usually with transportation to appointments or trips to the grocery store. However, over time, it can become more consuming. When mom and dad have to spend more time caring for gramma and grampa, there is less time for everything else. Obviously, this has an impact, and I believe that “tweens” and young teens are especially affected because of where they are at developmentally.
Kids between the ages of 12 and 15 are fairly independent, but they don’t yet have the autonomy of being able to drive or of working regular hours. Because of this, they tend to be home more than kids in their later teens. Additionally, most of them can be trusted with looking out for their younger siblings, and are even capable of helping care for the older family member who requires assistance. This is a huge help to the adults in a family who, while in the midst of raising and providing for their children, are also required to take care of an elderly relative.
But how much responsibility should children of these ages have to assume in this circumstance? My personal belief is that families should work together, and that when kids help out, they learn a lot that will benefit them later in life. However, they are still children, and they shouldn’t be over-burdened with adult responsibilities. As with most things, there is a fine line between the two, which probably gets thicker or thinner depending on individual family dynamics. What are your thoughts?
Caring for an elderly family member can have a positive impact on a family, but inevitably, there are times when it is difficult. The goal is to make sure that the positives outweigh the negatives, which is always the responsibility of the adults.
In my family, we learned pretty quickly that planning was the key to keeping life on track. We wrote everyone’s appointments and commitments on a family calendar, which we reviewed every weekend. If there were conflicts, we had time to resolve them before the next week began. What are your suggestions? Please feel free to comment below.
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Kelly McIntire is a New Hampshire-based author specializing in children's fiction and family topics.