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[edit] Group #6

  • 1. Bethany Muir
  • 2. Michelle Janzen
  • 3. Alicia Voogjarv

[edit] Grandparents Caring for Their Grandchildren

Changes in family structure have led to the increasing amount of grandparents taking full responsibilty for caring for their grandchildren. Many grandparents take on the surrogate role of parents because of problems with the parent generation such as drug and alcohol abuse, financial issues, incarceration and health issues [1] Studies show that caregiving grandparents are at risk for a host of problems including poverty, social isolation, depression, and personal health issues [2]. Grandparents also have many financial concerns within meeting financial challenges such as employment, housing and government funding.

[edit] Emotional Well-Being

Caring for grandchildren has a signifcant effect on the emotional well-being of grandparents. These grandparents often experience considerably more psychological distress, depressive symptoms,grief, isolation, anxiety, and frustration as a result of their new role as primary caregiver.

[edit] Psychological Distress

Older adulthood is meant to be a time of reflection and a review of past roles. However, when grandparents take on the responsibility of grandchildren, they must take on new roles which can increase stress levels. [3] A study done by Kelly, Whitley, Sipe, and Yorker (2000)[4] found that almost 30% of custodial grandparents have distress levels that required clinical attention. Overall, the factors which had the most significant influence on psychological distress were fewer resources, less social support, and poor physical health. [4]

[edit] Depressive Symptoms

The age of grandchildren is another factor which has a significant effect on the emotional health. Seventy-two percent of grandparents take in grandchildren when they are in the preschool age. [5] Younger children come with more of a physical demand which in turn causes grandparents to realize their functional limitations faster which can sometimes lead to depression. [5] This is mainly because grandparents who are less physically capable may not be able to interact with younger grandchildren as much as they would prefer. [3] Additionally, many grandparents caring for grandchildren show almost double the depressive symptoms due to the added responsibilities they face. [5] Overall, the longer grandparents have to care for children, the more stress they experience. [3] However, after 5 years, the children are usually older, and the grandparents have more experience, therefore depressive symptoms tend to decrease after this point. [6]

[edit] Grief

When grandparents raise children they often experience grief because of the loss of freedom. [7] Grandparents experience a loss of freedom as a result of the extreme change in routine. Some common changes include leisure time, friends, work, health, and finance.[7] They no longer have time for recreational activities, and spend less time with friends.[7] In addition, they often must quit their jobs and suffer financial difficulties as a result. [7] Under normal circumstances, grandparents can see their grandchildren from time to time, and give them love and support in incremental amounts. However, custodial grandparents must provide constant support as the grandparent is the main and sometimes sole provider [7]

[edit] Isolation

In comparison to parents, grandparents tend to experience much more isolation due to the fact that they receive little social support from institutions such as schools and government funding agencies because they are not the custodial parents. [4] In addition, they are not at the same stage in life as most other custodial parents, so there is a greater age gap, making it less likely that they will form a social support group with other caregivers. [7]

[edit] Frustration

Grandparents are more likely to experience frustration because they have difficulty taking over the role of the parent due to the generational gap, and the policies surrounding school, hospitals, and mental health providers which give more support to custodial parents.[4] These organizations tend to recognize parents as the primary caregiver more willingly than they would the grandparent.[4] For this reason, there are no special days dedicated toward grandparents in the schools, more issues with caregiver decisions, and much more resistance concerning financial need. [4]

[edit] Anxiety

Because many grandparents are in a position where they lack support and resources, they often experience increased anxiety. [3] Younger grandparents may actually experience more anxiety than older grandparents because they may have multiple caregiver roles if they are responsible for both the child and their aging parents. [3]

[edit] Improving Emotional Well-Being

The main area which can be improved to help grandparents cope with the emotional toll of raising children is by increasing social support. Sands and Goldberg-Glen (2000)[3] found that community resources such as daycare and counselling can help decrease stress levels. In addition, general support groups where grandparents can sit and talk with one another can help because they allow grandparents to vent their frustrations, and provide support and knowledge to one another. [7]

Furthermore, because declining physical ability can have a negative impact on emotional well being, it is important to increase the availability of technologies, in home services, and supportive services which can help grandparents cope with the physical capabilities required to care for young children. [5] With the physical decline in older adults, it may be important to look at devices which can help caregivers move up and down stairs, and home modifications which could make things easier to reach. In addition, a secondary caregiver could assist with the primary responsibilities of raising a young child so the grandparent would be able to take a break at times.

The following video shows one program designed to help grandparents with the difficulties of raising grandchildren:

[edit] Health Concerns

The health of grandparents who care for their grandchildren is becoming a growing concern as the number of grandparents caring full time for their grandchildren is increasing [1].Many grandparents provide care for their grandchildren and it is often a particularly important form of family support [8]however if a grandparent takes on full gaurdianship of a grandchild, significant health problems may occur.

[edit] Causes Of Poor Health

Medicine for arthritic pain to keep up with the grandkids
Medicine for arthritic pain to keep up with the grandkids

What causes the decreasing health in this particular group of grandparents? For one lack of family support is often related to stress. Grandparents who face the daily stresses of raising children again in older age, are often without family support [1]. This is different compared to the type of family support that they might have had when they were young parents. The stress associated with their lack of support can cause poorer health outcomes [1]. A second cause of poorer health in these grandparents is that many live in poor neighbourhoods, and have many financial setbacks. This is related to worse health in that many of these adults cannot afford medical expenses, are unable to access health facilities due to lack of transportation or child care.

[edit] Effects of Childcare on Granparents

Grandparents often ignore their own health in order to maintain their grandchildren’s daily activities and schedules. Custodial grandparents often report cancelling medical appointments because of child care issues or responsibilities [2]. These grandparents often will downplay their illnesses or deteriorating health and delay seeking help in order to provide care for the children [2]. Custodial grandparents also tend to report more dissatisfaction in their health as compared to non-custodial grandparents[2].

[edit] Common Health Issues

Physical demands on the grandparent can increase the risk of health issues especially if the grandparent is caring for younger grandchildren. Because chasing children around can be very physically taxing, grandparents often lose needed sleep and are at an increased risk of exposure to infections [9] Body stiffness and arthritis tend to be concerns for grandparents who care for their grandchildren. Custodial grandparents are also more likely than non-custodial grandparents to report limitations in their movement abilities such as moving around the house, climbing stairs, doing household chores and tasks, and even maintaining employment [10].The stress of caring for grandchildren can manifest itself in physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and increased blood pressure. Another health concern is that due to the stress of being a custodial grandparent, they are more at risk for coronary heart disease and other cardiac related issues [1]. An interesting finding through the research in health problems among custodial grandparents is the increase of poor health habits. Many custodial grandparents report an increase in smoking and drinking, poorer eating habits and lack of exercise.[9] All of these factors contribute to the higher obesity rate in custodial grandparents as compared to non-custodial grandparents. With the higher risk of obesity come even more health risk factors such as diabetes and other related risk factors stemming from diabetes as well [10]

Studies show that poor habits such as smoking increases when grandparents become custodians of their grandchildren
Studies show that poor habits such as smoking increases when grandparents become custodians of their grandchildren

[edit] Positive Health Benefits

Whereas numerous studies have showed the health problems that are associated with child rearing in old age, some studies have shown the benefits. There is a small amount of research that has found a positive health improvement link to custodial grandparents. These grandparents have reported a positive experience of raising their grandchildren which has contributed to their emotional well being and physical wellbeing [10]. These grandparents have reported an increase in physical exercise as they are forced to keep up with their grandchildren. There is also studies that have found custodial grandparents who have reported a decrease in unhealthy behaviours such as smoking, drinking and eating poorly [10]. Grandparents report this is due to that they are aware that their grandchildren are dependent on them and that their health could be the difference between their grandchildren being cared for by family or the social services system [9]. The difference between positive and negative health effects may be due to differences in the individual grandparent. SES status, individual lifestyle choices, and age of grandparent may all be contributing factors to the differences in health issues among the studies.

[edit] Financial Concerns

Grandparents caring for grandchildren have to deal with many financial difficulties. This problem is not just occurring in Canada or the United States, but found worldwide (for example, in Australia [11]). The grandparents suffer from financially supporting their grandchildren through employment challenges, housing challenges and government funding.

The following video is an excellent example of the financial issues grandparents are facing in the United Kingdom.

[edit] Financial Challenges

Caring for grandchildren has many financial challenges including payments for school, recreational activities,and health care which often exceeds the budget of the grandparents. [12] In Australia, there is a state allowance given to children in foster or parental care for low income families to help pay for educational needs. [11] Fitzpatrick and Reeve (2003) [11] did a study on this state allowance which revealed that children in the care of their grandparents usually did not receive the allowance. This was due to the fact that the allowance was based on the grandparents’ income and assets instead of the biological parents. Therefore, if the grandparents made enough to support themselves, they did not receive the state allowance even though they may not have been able to financially support the children. Thus, the grandparents had to differentiate between their money that they can spend on themselves and the amount of money that is needed for the children. [12] Consequently, the money that was put aside for retirement now must be used for raising their grandchildren. As a result of this, any plans of going into retirement are now changed significantly and often put on hold.

Furthermore, grandchildren are often put into the care of the grandparents because the biological parents get involved in abusing drugs and alcohol. [11] With the grandchildren being exposed to such a harsh environment, they may suffer from psychological, emotional and physical problems (from neglect or abuse). The grandparents then have to use their finances to pay for any treatment that is needed to deal with the mental health needs of their grandchildren. [11]

[edit] Employment Challenges

Grandparents who care for their grandchildren often have many difficulties with employment. Most grandparents who are supporting their grandchildren are at a higher rate of poverty then the rest of the older population. [13] A skipped-generation household is a family in which the children's biological parents are absent and the grandparents must care for the children. Older grandparents in skipped-generation households are in poorer health, which limits their ability to work. Furthermore, the grandparents receive no financial aid from the biological parents. This results in the grandparents relying on their own finances and income to care for the grandchildren.[13]

Retired grandparents or on their way to retirement may find themselves looking for a job again to increase their monthly income. However, there are many employment challenges the grandparents face when trying to find a job or with their current job. First, there is a lack of flexibility in the hours that the grandparents are able to work and the job market wants them to work. [12] In order to have enough time to raise their grandchildren , the grandparents need a flexible work schedule. Second, if the grandparents already have a job they may need to stop any career advancement that might occur so that they still have time for their grandchildren. [12] Third, grandparents may need to give up jobs or even making career changes that create a conflict in their time and ability to care for their grandchildren. [12] Furthermore, those in the United States can get Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) for social support. However, often when grandparents go on TANF, they have to either meet the job requirements by getting a job or quit their job to rely only on the financial aid. Overall, grandparents caring for their grandchildren have many difficulties finding a job or keeping their current job which impacts their financial situation. [12]

[edit] Housing Challenges

Once the grandparents’ own adult children move out of their house, they often have excess space. To deal with this, the grandparents often downsize their current living space to an environment more suitable to their needs. [12] However, once the grandparents have their grandchildren to take care of, the need for space again increase.[12] Thus, when grandparents take in their grandchildren, the house becomes overcrowded. Therefore, there is an immediate need for a larger, yet affordable house. [12] There is a program of Federal Assisted Housing Programs which supplies housing at an affordable rate. However, there is a long waiting list which prolongs the waiting period of getting a better suited house. Thus, the grandparents are eligible to transfer but must wait in an overcrowded and expensive housing situation.[12] This causes another financial burden to the grandparents as they try to create a bigger and more affordable living environment.

[edit] Government Funding

When taking on grandchildren in a low income situation, grandparents can use government funding (welfare) for financial aid.[14] Generally, the use of this government funding is given to those in low-income and minority families. The grandparents want to create a stable home for the grandchildren despite the lack of funds they receive from work or from the biological parents. Grandparents can reach out to social workers who can inform the grandparents of the financial aid that could be available. Such financial aids include monthly federal grants for students in low income families which gives the grandparents money, as well as, free meals at school for the grandchildren. [15]

However, some of the financial aids available is not enough to meet the grandchildren’s needs. For example, some grandparents receive less than 500 dollars a month to care for four children.[12] This then makes the grandparents feel like the governmental child care system does not value their services. For without them, the grandchildren would be in social services at the expense of tax payers. Furthermore, some grandparents may have never had the need for financial aid, and therefore, do not understand the system.[12] Often, grandparents become frustrated and do not bother with the aid. Minkler and Fuller-Thomson (1999) [14] suggest that there should be a new welfare system for grandparents caring for their grandchildren. Then, the grandparents would not need to meet the job requirements for going on welfare. Overall, government financial aid can be helpful to grandparents care, but many grandparents experience frustration with the financial system and lack of funds.

The following video provides an excellent summary of grandparent care givers and options they have to help with their financial challenges as they deal with their own health and emotional well-being.

[edit] References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Goodman, C, Tan, P, Ernandes, P., Silverstein, M., 2008, The health of grandmothers raising grandchildren:Does the quality of family relationships matter? Families, Systems & Health, 26(4), 417-430
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Minkler & Fuller-Thomson, 2008, The health of grandparents raising grandchildren: Results of a national study.American Journal of Public Health. 89(9), 1384-1389
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Sands, R. G., & Goldberg-Glen, R. S. (2000). Factors associated with stress among grandparents raising their grandchildren. Family Relations, 49(1), 97-105.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Kelley, S. J., Whitley, D., Sipe, T. A., & Yorker, B. C. (2000). Psychological distress in grandmother kinship care providers: The role of resources, social support, and physical health. Child Abuse & Neglect, 24(3), 311-321.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Minkler, M., & Fuller-Tompson, E. (1999). The health of grandparents raising grandchildren: Results of a national study. American Journal of Public Health, 89(9), 1384-1389.
  6. Minkler, M., Fuller-Tompson, E., Miller, D., & Driver, D. (1997). Depression in grandparents raising grandchildren. Archives of Family Medicine, 6(5), 445-452. Retrieved from
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 Pinson-Millburn, N. M., Fabian, E. S., Schlossberg, N. K., & Pyle, M. (1996). Grandparents raising grandchildren. Journal of Counselling & Development, 74, 548-554.
  8. Hank, K., & Buber, I., 2009,Grandparents caring for thier grandchildren, Journal of Family Issues, 30(1), 53-73
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Hughes, M., Waite, L., LaPierre, T., & Luo, Y. (2007)All in the family: The impact of caring for grandchildren on grandparents' health. Journal of Gerantology. 62B (2), S108-S119
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Whitley, D., Kelley, S., Sipe, T.(2001).Grandmothers raising grandchildren: Are they at increased risk of health problems?Health & Social Work 26(2), 105-144
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 Fitzpatrick, M., & Reeve, P. (2003). Grandparent’s raising grandchildren- a new class of disadvantaged Australians. Family Matters, 66, 54-57.
  12. 12.00 12.01 12.02 12.03 12.04 12.05 12.06 12.07 12.08 12.09 12.10 12.11 Crewe, S. E., & Stowell-Ritter, A. (2003). Grandparents raising grandchildren in the District of Columbia: Focus group report. Retrieved from:
  13. 13.0 13.1 Wang, Y., & Marcotta, D. E. (2007). Golden years? The labour market effect of caring for grandchildren. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 1283-1296.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Minkler, M., & Fuller-Thomson, E. (1999). The health of grandparents raising grandchildren: Results of a national study. American Journal of Public Health, 89(9), 1384- 1389.
  15. Strom, R. D., & Strom, S. K. (2000). Meeting the challenge of raising grandchildren. Aging and Human Development, 51(3), 183-198.
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