MENTAL HEALTH CARE GIVING - WHEN GRANDPARENTS ARE THE CAREGIVER
A child needs a grandparent, anybody’s grandparent, to grow a little more securely into an unfamiliar world. ~Charles and Ann Morse
I grew up in a community where there was plenty of love to go around, there were always neighbors sharing things from their gardens, what they'd cooked, and willing to help with car repairs if they saw you underneath the hood for your car. Very seldom did someone see someone in need of help and they not offer assistance. Families stuck together regardless to how dysfunctional so many were they were there to help one another out.
Our neighbor Mrs. Holmes was like a grandmother to us and a mother to my mom who was a young 25 year old when she bought our house. Mrs. Holmes was a foster mother of 3 young boys who were all biological brothers. It was well known that she'd been a foster parent for quite some time as some of the children came back to visit when they were grown and the neighbors would come to visit and talk about how much they hadn't changed. My mother would go over and talk to Mrs. Holmes about everything they were confidants.
I remember there was a phone call that came in one morning and my mother began to cry. She went next door to see Mrs. Holmes and later I would understand she went to get guidance on what to do when a social worker calls and wants to place a child in your care, in my mother's case it was my cousin who was removed from my aunt’s care after a severe case of child abuse. She would later raise another one of my aunts children from 9 months old to adulthood. She stepped in because my grandmother could not. We didn’t know it then but my aunt had a mental illness that kept her into drugs and trouble, unable to parent.
Today my mother is raising my nephews for my youngest sister who has a mental health challenge and is unable to do so. So when i share with you the challenges below and how family, friends, churches, and friends can be of assistance to grandparents in the community I come from a place of knowing.
My mother has her own physical health challenges like diabetes, hypertension, carpel tunnel, a bad back, and host of other injuries that resulted in her finding it difficult to greet a day without pain. She came out of retirement so that she could provide for the boys who and buy the things she needed for them, at the time my sister could not be of assistance to her or the boys. Getting the boys dressed for school every day, fixing their breakfast and driving them to school is sometimes a challenge, especially during the cold days when arthritis is taking up residency in her and she has to lift my youngest nephew into the car. She has been taking care of my oldest nephew since he was 3 months old and my youngest nephew since he was a newborn. Lifting car seats out of the car, diaper bags, toys, bikes, and chasing energetic boys around the park were her new duties in addition returning to work full time.
What is often not discussed within our communities is how many grandparents are living this life right now...the life of a Family Caregiver. If you go into the schools and do a poll of how many children are in the care of grandparents because their parents are battling mental illnesses you would be so surprised at how many children there are in the "custody" of their grandparents.
How many grandparents can you think of that are in your neighborhood and are taking care of their children's children? What about the grandparent who is taking care of the children at church or who you see at the basketball games that are the sole caregiver for their grandchildren?
Here are some ways you can be of assistance to them:
Pray for them & encourage them.
Offer to take the children out with your children for a day at the park so that the grandparent can have some time to rest or take a nap.
Pay for a cleaning service to do housework for the grandparent.
Mow the lawn for a grandparent who's a caregiver
Go to the grocery store for them. Stop by and get their grocery list and buy their groceries if you have the finances to.
Donate clothes to the grandparent for the children. Especially right now coats are a great gift to give to grandparents caring for grandkids and out in this chilly weather.
Pay a utility bill for the grandparent.
Give the gift of money; they can always decide where to use it best.
Send the grandparent out for some self-care like a pedicure or foot massage.
Cook food for the whole week for them so they don't have to worry about getting in from practice with the children and cooking.
Most times the grandparent caregiver is also caring for the loved one at the same time. Helping the loved one to manage their illness, dealing with noncompliance, and sometimes the loved one leaves the children in the care of the grandparent while they are out doing as they choose without any regard for their responsibility or limitations the grandparent may have caring for the young children.
Mental illness is a complex illness and requires a great deal of patience and understanding on the part of the family that is supporting the loved one with the illness. A grandparent must be sure to set the right boundaries and when the loved one is stable give them as much responsibility as they can handle with the children. Our goal as caregivers is to be the support not the enabler. Our loved ones have a level of ability with their responsibility; we must operate within those confines and maximize the way in which we are supporting them. Let your loved one be the parent when they are stable as long as there are no other concerns regarding the children’s safety. They must at some point take accountability for their children and their roles as parents. Be a support not a crutch, grandparents.
Feel free to reach out to us for assistance we are very willing to help you to devise a goal and plan to include your loved one gaining the necessary life skills required to be a full time parent and have a regard for those who are sacrificing and caring for their children when they cannot. You Grandparent have a right to feel appreciated and to get the support you need form your loved one as well. Remember you while you're caregiving. Thank you for all you are doing for your loved one and the grandchildren.
If you know of a grandparent please reach out to us or refer them to Homagi, we would love to be of assistance to them.
I have a really good training program going on right now called “Breaking The Time Bank” which focuses on your self care and the restructuring of your caregiving day that allows for the care of your loved one and a life outside of caregiving for you. If you’re interested click here: #BreakingTheTimeBank and once you have entered your email click the “Click here after registering to purchase the "Breaking The Time Bank" modules for this course” The deadline to register is January 9, 2016. At $1.00 a day the amount of information and structure you receive in this challenge will empower you for years into your caregiving journey and affect other aspects of your personal development!
La Shawn is a Mental Health Survivor & Mental Health Family Caregiver. Although her passion has always been to help those in need, Homagi began 12 years ago as a non profit for homeless women and children, she chose to use her experience as a Mental Health Family Caregiver to guide other family caregivers on their journey as they assist their loved ones on theirs. She is known for her vibrant smile, easy going personality, positive attitude, and servant spirit. Always willing to stop and listen or share an experience with others, you feel heard and appreciated. Don't let those characteristics fool you into believing she's not an advocate who will stand up, march, and make the voice of the sometimes voiceless heard. A California native, now a Houstonian she loves the beach, hiking, crocheting and woodwork. She is married to her best friend and co-pilots their blended family of 5 children and 3 granddaughters.