Critter Corner: Including Grandchildren in Caregiving

Dear Magic,

My mother moved close by after my father passed away. She suffers from diabetes and has hip problems. My 13-year-old daughter, Bella, and my 9 year old, Rex, want to visit to help with grandmother’s caregiving and spend meaningful time with her. What are some ways that young Bella and Rex can help grandma and make the most of their time with her?

Ty M. Withgramma


Dear Ty,

Recently, conducted two dozen interviews of caregivers, experts, grandparents, grandchildren and media sources about how grandchildren can play a part in caring for and spending meaningful time with grandma and/or grandpa. Here are some suggestions, based on their research:

Spending time together: Unless your parent needs medication throughout the day or falls frequently, a child (the teenager in particular) can be a fine sitter for his or her grandparent. He or she can be responsible for tasks such as making coffee or tea, pouring juice or water, or serving an earlier-prepared lunch. Conversely, unless the grandparent has some mental or serious physical disability, he or she could accept a weekly role as sitter for a few hours for a grandchild, and spend time chatting, game playing or project building.

Solving puzzles/playing word games: Solving puzzles or playing word games, such as Scrabble, are mutual and enjoyable challenges for both grandparent and grandchild. Crossword puzzles vary in difficulty, so that children of most ages can participate and, teamed with the grandparent, can share in the success of solution.

Reading books to each other: The grandchild can read to the elder anything from school or, perhaps, a favorite book. The process may take a total of only 20 minutes, but should be a time of joy long remembered by both elder and younger.

Family history discussion/looking at photo albums: Find your parent’s stash of old photos and mementos and place them in a single box or stack. The child can help the grandparent sort the memorabilia while the elder tells a bit of the history, time and people. The child can make hand notes, even as dictated by the grandparent, to identify each of the photographs or items.

Movie Time: Grandparents can share a periodic or even regular movie time that introduces earlier, classic films to grandchildren. The grandchild should be able to both understand and enjoy the films while also learning about things such as automobiles and clothing styles from a different time. Or, grandchildren can introduce grandparents to their favorite modern movies.

Hugs: Hugs at the start and end of each visit are important for both senior and grandchild. If your parent is physically limited and the grandchild is small, get a step stool so that the younger child can ascend to the grandparent’s lap to present a hug. The hug is a magical and memorable moment for your parent plus, now and in later memory, something very special for the grandchild.

Grandchildren keep seniors joyful and active. Another reason to bring the grandchildren over is that spending time with them may actually help stave off Alzheimer’s disease, according to research. Read more in our Critter Corner article on the subject.

Hop you and your children enjoy their time with grandma!


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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.