According to AARP Fact Sheet more than six million children under 18 in America are living in a grandparent-headed household. This brings a daunting challenge to the aging population. Among the issues these grandparents face are aging and decreased energy, the problems which caused the retirees to raise their grandchildren, financial difficulties, and caregiver burnout, and the need for support wherever possible.
At a time of life when energy is waning, much of the aging population finds itself in a position that can’t be refused: that of raising grandchildren. There is no doubt that most grandparents want to help. The question is whether they can do it alone at that point in their lives.
In addition, parents are often having children at a later time in life, thus making an even greater hardship on grandparents who are at the older end of the grandparent age spectrum.
Reasons for Retirees to Raise Grandchildren
There are many situations in which the grandparents may be called on to act as parent or guardian:
- Accident, disability or death of birth parents
- Drug use of parents
- Child abandonment by one or both parents
- Incarceration of parent
- Financial limitations of parents, often due to lack of education and/or lack of a job
- Placement with grandparent due to decision of the court or referral from Child Protective Services
Financial Difficulties Faced by Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
Often grandparents find themselves using their retirement funds, savings, pensions, and/or social security for grandchildren’s lunch money and other expenses of bringing up children. Sometimes there is help to be found from state or federal programs, but the budgeting challenges are still great.
Caregiver Burnout in Seniors who Raise Grandchildren
At times one senior is not only the main caregiver for a spouse, but also the primary guardian of one or more of the grandchildren. There is often support, either financial or emotional, being given to the inactive or non-functioning parent, causing further drain on the caregiver. There are organizations to help these people know they are not alone, and they do provide ideas and some respite services. No doubt such ideas are well worth following up on.
Need for Support and Resources for Grandparents who are Parenting
Like most of life’s problems, it’s best not to go it alone. Share the grief as well as the challenges with family, friends, groups you are a part of like churches, community groups, etc. Many organizations are looking for some way to contribute to society. You may find respite care, encouragement, mentoring for the grandkids, financial or other help.
So if you know a grandparent raising their grandchildren, look for a way to help out. If you are the grandparent facing the challenge, nurture yourself, know you are not alone, and keep your eyes open for any resources that can be found.
Source Used for Statistics in This Article
The site was grandparents raising grandchildren.com, grandfactsheets.org, State Fact Sheets for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children, Fact Sheet, AARP Foundation, Oct. 2007.