Due to the overwhelming requests for information on grandparenting, Empowering Caregivers has developed a series of articles to keep you abreast of important information, along with suggested books and resources.
Today, more than any other time in history, Grandparents are caring for grandchildren in a variety of new roles. Death of a parent, abandonment, parents who are in prison, substance abuse, unemployment, mental illness, divorce, teen pregnancy, violence in the family home and those whose parents work full time are just some of the reasons for this new trend.. Whatever the scenario is, grandparents are overwhelmed and feeling isolated in their newly defined roles as grandparent(s) caring for their grandchildren..
Whether grandparents are caregiving or raising these children, they may be totally unsure of where to start and how to proceed. As a result, to meet the needs of grandparents in these situations, many organizations, foundations and programs and support groups have arisen and are available across the nation. They provide an tremendous wealth of resources: legal, financial, emotional, behavioral; just to mention a few types of help.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1997 3.9 million children were living in homes maintained by their grandparents, up 76 percent from 2.2 million in 1970. In a majority of the cases, grandparents are the primary caregivers. Based on 1996 Census data, 48 percent of grandparent caregivers are between age 50 and 64; 33 percent are younger than age 50 and 19 percent are age 65 plus.
And there are those grandparents who are grandparenhting long distance. The Foundation for Grandparenting. Arthur Kornhaber M.D., the founder and President says “We call this “Grandparent Power” — the power to love, care for others, and grow personally by so doing. This is especially relevant in today’s society where there are few defined roles for older people. Our work has shown that today’s new and unique grandparent generation, including elders who are not biological grandparents, if coalesced into a cohesive group, contain the possibilities for changing society for the better.”
Issues Faced By Grandparents:
Changes are experienced in all aredas of the grandparents’s lives when they assume the role of caring for a grandchild. There is a tremendous amount of mental and emotional strain coupled with feelings of ioslation and helplessness and at times even hopelessness. Grandparents are also saddled with new financial challenges because of their fixed incomes.
As caregivers know, they may also neglect their own health issues because the grandchildren become their priority. Many grandchildren have special needs mentally, physically and emotionally so the grandparent may be torn in setting priorities to have their own needs met.
Grandparents may also be challenged with needing legal rights and guardianship rights for their grandchildren in order to receive public assistance, registering them in school, supportive services, affordable housing, medical care and respite.
State and Area Agencies on Aging throughout the US offer programs and services to assist grandparent caregivers. Contact your local Area On Agency to find out what programs you are eligible for and what is available in your community.
Gail R. Mitchell