My husband’s mother is not doing very well these days. She is 88 years old and still lives in her own house. She has not been eating well, and is often found in bed when one of her children comes by to visit. My husband and his siblings do take good care of her, but where are the grandchildren to help? There are 11 of them, and none of them come over to actually do anything for her. They drop by to show off their young children and then leave. Why don’t they help out?
I remember in my family when my parents needed help, it was usually me that did most of the care giving. My siblings did help when they could. None of my parents 10 grandchildren really did any care giving. They dropped by to visit, maybe helped make a lunch, but then left. The only grandchild who did some serious care giving of my mother was a niece, and we paid her to do it.
I mention this to you, so that you know that other families have the same problem as you. Grandchildren rarely offer much help in care giving. They are most likely in their 20’ and 30’s and busy building their careers and running busy household full of active kids.
As much as you can see the value in having the grandchildren help out, it is highly likely that they will not volunteer. They don’t see it as their responsibilities – that’s their parents role. I also suggest that you stay out of the whole situation. Don’t try and guilt any of the grandchildren to pitch in with real care giving support. It just won’t happen.
Your mother-in-law’s life is in transition. There will come a day when she will need more care, perhaps full time care. Families always seem to try and do the care giving for a good length of time, but ultimately need more (external help.) It is at this point that agencies and private care giving companies are called in. Most often they are called in a panic, something has happened to trigger the phone calls for care giving help.
You may want to encourage your husband and his siblings to develop a plan for the next steps in your mother-in-law’s care. Mostly likely they will not listen to you, until they have to. It is human nature to think that we can all take care of our own family best, I know that I reluctantly gave into agreeing for paid help.
So, forget about the idea of having the grandchildren helping out. It won’t happen.
Message from Mary Bart: I was my parents’ principal caregiver for ten years. I have first-hand experience in helping aging parents, dealing with family dynamics, protecting parents from elder abuse and working with public and private organizations. Do you have a question for me? Please email your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
An important note: I love answering your questions, but I also encourage you to seek professional legal, financial, or medical assistance. Mary.
Updated: July 12, 2013