According to an AARP survey, about 71% of older adults say they prefer to stay in their homes and communities for as long as possible. Everyone’s situation is different, but for many families, fulfilling this wish to “age in place” can mean living in a multi-generational household. And although such a living situation can spark lots of joy and strong family bonds, it’s not without its challenges. Being a caregiver to an aging parent can be a tough job. When combined with trying to parent your own children, there are bound to be some periods that feel stressful or overwhelming.
Fortunately, if your children are old enough, you have a unique opportunity to benefit everyone in the family. With your kids’ help, you can delegate some of your caregiving tasks to them, freeing up your time and energy to tackle other responsibilities – or to help recharge your batteries so you can be a better caregiver overall and avoid burnout.
Helping out with caregiving has some benefits for your children as well. They’ll acquire important life skills such as cooking, cleaning, and basic caregiving techniques. Additionally, they’ll develop empathy and compassion – and gain an appreciation for the challenges of aging. Caregiving experience can also provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment for your children as they contribute to the family in a meaningful way.
So, how can you get your kids involved in basic caregiving? Here are a few suggestions:
Driving (Best for Teens)
Teens who have a license and a car at their disposal can provide invaluable assistance as drivers. Although an adult may need to be present for medical appointments, teens can free up their parents by chauffeuring their grandparents to other outings like shopping trips or salon visits. Assisting as a driver not only allows teens to gain more driving experience, but also provides them with more one-on-one time with their elders.
Assisting with technology (Best for Adolescents & Teens)
Many older adults struggle with technology, but your kids likely have no problem navigating the digital world. Enlist their help in setting up digital assistants, smartphones, or other devices for your aging parents. They can then help their grandparents learn how to use these devices to stay connected with family and friends, access entertainment, and lookup information. If grandparents know how to use their technology, small buttons or hand tremors might still be an obstacle for them. If so, grandkids can help with tasks like setting up calendar reminders, making calls, or reading and responding to text messages.
Cooking & meal prep (Best for Adolescents & Teens)
Cooking is a valuable life skill, and your children can learn a lot (and help a lot) by preparing simple recipes for their grandparents such as spaghetti, scrambled eggs, rice, and sandwiches. If grandparents are able to make their own meals but have difficulty getting about the kitchen, grandkids can help with prep tasks like washing and chopping produce, washing dishes or countertops, and gathering any equipment or ingredients required to make the meal out and ready to go.
Household chores (Best for Adolescents & Teens)
Chores are a fact of life, but they can also be an opportunity to teach responsibility and discipline. Assign your children age-appropriate tasks such as cleaning, laundry, or yard work. Not only can this help your aging loved one with basic household tasks, but it will also teach your kids the value of hard work and the importance of contributing to the family. If needed, it can also help to free up yourself or another adult caregiver for lengthy, complicated, or intimate caregiving tasks that aren’t appropriate for younger helpers.
Companionship (Best for All Ages)
Many older adults struggle with loneliness and isolation, particularly if they’re no longer able to leave the house or participate in their usual activities. Grandchildren can provide valuable companionship by spending time with their grandparents, engaging in conversation, and participating in activities such as playing games or doing puzzles together.
Even when you have your children to help you, caring for an aging parent can get more challenging over time. It’s important for you and your kids to take breaks now and then to refresh and reenergize so you can give your loved one the best possible care. If your loved one requires a nursing home-level of assistance, you can get respite care and other types of assistance through Florida PACE Centers.
PACE provides coordinated medical care, caregiver support services, and social engagement. All services are provided at your nearest adult day health center, or at home (depending on need). You can think of the center as like a doctor’s office and social hall rolled into one. Meals and snacks are served, recreational activities are going on with other PACE participants, and transportation to/from is provided. To learn more about the program and enroll, visit floridaPACEcenters.org.