I once conducted a study aiming to understand the inter-generational dynamics of middle aged caregivers and their young adult or teenage children. We had some unanticipated difficulties in getting the caregivers (parents) to agree to introduce their children for the interviews. The caregivers told us that their children were too busy at work or in school to be involved with the care giving process.
Fortunately, we were able to speak with some young adults or teenagers who provided us with valuable insights on their perspective on informal caregiving. As expected, many of them living in a three-generation household saw themselves providing very little help to their parents (usually mothers); the primary caregivers for their grandparents at home. However, that didn't mean that the children were oblivious to what was happening at home. Many were well aware of the tensions that their parents were facing, including money matters and the shared responsibilities between the caregiver and their siblings. They could also sense that their parents were affected by the stress when caregiving became difficult. Despite knowing and understanding the challenges related to caregiving, most of them said without hesitation that they would have no problem caring for their parents in the future because they have seen their own parents care and love for their grandparents.
When one generation loves, the next generation learns.
Instead of keeping the children at bay due to the reason that they are busy individuals, the study suggests that caregivers should voice out right from the beginning that caregiving is a duty that concerns the whole family. Having family conferences involving the children, sharing with them their concerns and issues that causes them stress, involving them in learning more about caring for the frail elderly, such as browsing for information on the internet together and going for caregiving workshops together. Parents who have gone through the process of garnering support from children found themselves emerging stronger as a family.
Dr. Thang Leng Leng
National University of Singapore (NUS)
(Writer is a member of iCare Life Advisory Board)