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National Grandparents’ Day Reflection on Caregiving

Pictured above: the author, Danielle Adamski, director of marketing, with her paternal grandmother, “Grammy.”

As I reflect on National Grandparents’ Day, my family’s story reminds me of the caregiving and aging journey we all experience, especially now during my first year without my grandparents. While both of my grandfathers passed early in my life, I was blessed to have both of my grandmothers live long lives. When I recall memories of these two women, I remember the importance of both the caregiving we provide others, as well as the caregiving support many of us will receive – whether to meet our personal needs, or the needs of those whom we love.

My paternal grandmother developed macular degeneration and dementia as she aged, which escalated her caregiving needs as time went by. Living alone in her home like she wanted to – and just like 77 % of adults age 50 and older who want to remain at home – many family members rallied as caregivers. It started by providing minor assistance here and there, from simple chores like grocery store trips, cleaning her fridge, or vacuuming during a visit, to taking her to appointments and social calls. However, over the years her worsening conditions required more complex and regular support. Ultimately, my father and aunt became Grammy’s primary family caregivers, visiting multiple times a day, tracking medication, taking her BP, coordinating doctor’s appointments, bringing meals daily, and so much more.

I believe the power of caregiving – whether provided by family members or outside help – ultimately is measured by the moments we’re able to experience with our loved ones who remain healthy at home, for longer. Although eventually, it was a fall that was the beginning of the end of my Grammy’s life, we still had the time to celebrate her 96 birthday in the nursing home before she passed. She also got to meet my youngest daughter who is named after her.

My maternal grandmother had many health challenges over the years, including several chronic conditions, diabetes, and surviving breast cancer. Ever the fighter – I’ve lost count of the times over the last decade I’ve called my mom, only to learn Gram was at the doctor’s, in the hospital, or back at the nursing home. Sometimes caused by her diabetes complications, or at other times the result of cardiac events like congestive heart failure and her multiple heart attacks – Gram’s necessary inpatient stays usually ended with her living temporarily with my mom. About a year ago, that arrangement became permanent. Once Gram moved in full-time, my mom’s day revolved around her caregiving needs, until Gram was placed on hospice earlier this year. I saw the intensity of my mom’s caregiver burden escalate from personal care and medication management to sleepless nights and exhaustion. Thankfully, we were able to say goodbye before Gram passed surrounded by love.

My family’s experiences caring for our grandmothers are so very common – more than 1 in 5 adults are unpaid family caregivers. Hopefully, as you take time to reflect on this National Grandparents’ Day, you have many positive memories to sustain you through the caregiving challenges. I carry my grandparents’ memories with me, and I am honored to support my children and their grandparents as we build many wonderful new memories on this special day, for as long as we can.