Throughout my career, i have spent a number of years working with and understanding children and families. While the primary focus in Child welfare work is to ensure that children are safe, adequately cared for, and have the proper resources to thrive.
There is a concurrent and emerging challenge with the elderly members within these families.
These members also need safety, adequate care, and the proper resources to thrive.
Within the Child Welfare system, we see a growing number of children in the United States living with and or being cared for by grandparents. The number of “Grand families” has grown from 2.5 million in 2005 to 2.9 million in 2010. in 2019 there was an. estimated 7 million grandparents-led households in the United States. (US census 2019)
This dilemma increases the need for safety as well as risks for these families. Because Grand families are often formed in response to financial difficul­ties, illness, and divorce, grand families need access to high-quality evidence-based interventions in order to prevent adverse health effects.
For the elderly caretaker,  the impact of assuming this role has a lasting effect on the caretaker as well as the children.
According to a study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, custodial grandchildren have higher levels of emotional and behavioral problems than children in the overall U.S. population.
subsequent concerns for the elderly include safe adequate housing, a community of support, and resources to meet their personal care needs which include a long-term care plan.
Attempting to focus on a Long-term care plan while also providing immediate care for grandchildren can impact the social physical and emotional health of the caregiver over time. while it’s not uncommon to experience feelings of anger resentment, ambivalence shame, and guilt, these feelings can shape the interactions, participation, and ultimately the relationship between all family members involved.
There are some very important ways families can navigate these competing priorities and raise awareness of the needs of the elderly caretaker and the family.

Acknowledge the range of emotions that can be associated with this caretaking role 

Normalize the range of emotions often associated with caretaking. Acknowledging feelings of stress anger and resentment does not mean that the caretaker does not love the family member. The desire to support your family and also resent caring for the family can co-exist. 


Communicating with medical professionals, educating oneself, and observing for any signs or behavioral changes can aid in adequately preparing for the changing and long-term needs.

Prioritize your needs :

I often use the oxygen Mask analogy when working with parents. This emphasizes the importance of self-care prior to attempting to care for anyone else. If the caretaker isnt  safe and doesn’t have adequate care, it is impossible for him/her to care for anyone else.

Speak with your family: 

speak with your loved ones to initiate a long-term care plan that will ensure that your needs will be met. try not to avoid the conversation. Although family members may not always understand your position and the conversation can become very emotional remember that bold conversations lead to courageous acts of change.

Speak with a professional 

A professional therapist or counselor can often assist with identifying and obtaining care coordination. This can include respite services, economic assistance, and housing. This can be a major support and can reduce the caregiving burden. Participating in support groups and parenting skills groups can be a great deal of support for multigenerational grandparent-headed families.

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About the Author: Novena Riojas
Novena is a certified personal and Leadership coach, licensed psychotherapist, and a leader with a track record of performance, superior interpersonal skills, and progressive growth. Novena currently provides Executive oversight of operations for NYC's foster care system. This includes but is not limited to program evaluation, strategic planning, and implementation of process improvements. Throughout Novena's career, she has developed, Implemented, and facilitated staff development and training for child Welfare staff members involved in the delivery of critical social service initiatives served as a quality assurance Manager and liaised between contracted providers and Family Court systems. Novena is focused on empowering individuals and families to clarify and take action toward rewriting their personal narratives. Her philosophy is rooted in the belief that when we are intentional about our personal and professional growth it moves us closer to our true purpose and mission in life. Recently Novena did a TEDx talk about Getting to The Root of Fear Shame and Guilt. She also authored a book about shifting your personal narrative and the benefit of mindset shifting. During her free time, Novena she enjoys cooking, exercising, writing, and watching classic films.

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