Questions & Answers


Dear George

This article contains questions and comments by teenage caregivers. You see that there are others who have similar situations. You are not alone. The answers given are by "George", a professional teen counselor. Read what other teens had to say and see if you can identify with them.

"Andy"

Age 17 – Many times my siblings, parents, and I cannot go places freely without making arrangements for someone to be with her. We never have activities with just our parents.

Dear Andy,
It may be possible to work out a routine where your family goes out together once a month. However, hiring someone to care for your older relative during this time can be expensive. Check with local agencies to see if they have a Respite Program to provide temporary care. Another way to spend time together is to plan an activity at home, like a special dinner, picnic, or a game, which can be played together.

~*~

"Jim"

Age 16 – We don’t live together. She lives right next door. She makes me mad because she can do things for herself and won’t. Then she’ll tell us we don’t do things for her and puts us down. When people get older they can get meaner.

Dear Jim,
When people get older they often feel lost, lonely, and confused because they can’t do as much as they used to do. Set aside a special time you can spend with your elderly relative doing things you enjoy doing with her. She may honestly need help doing some things. She probably doesn’t want to be mean. She may feel frustrated at having lost the ability to do many things she used to do.

~*~

"Theresa"

Age 15 – Grandpa is fun. Grandma doesn’t like loud noises and gets mad when I have friends stay all night. How do I get Grandma not to be mad at me all the time?

Dear Theresa,
Try to talk to your grandma about how you are feeling and see if you can come to a compromise on the noise. Also try to include her in an activity with you and your friends. You may find she has a lot to offer and share.

~*~

"Chris"

Age 12- My grandfather has Alzheimer’s and I sometimes take care of him because I am needed. I enjoy having time to spend with him since he may not be around much longer.

Dear Chris
The time you’ve spent with your grandfather has given you rewards and memories- memories that you will never lose. While it is difficult to watch a loved one’s health get worse, your positive attitude will do a great deal to make the current situation less stressful for you and your family.

~*~

"David"

Age 16- He can’t walk well and can’t grab things, or hold up his head. I’m kind of nervous and uncomfortable around him. I feel it would just bring me down if I let his illness affect me more than it already has.

"Dear David"
If you learn more about your grandfather’s illness, you may feel more comfortable around him. Try to keep in mind that inside your grandfather is the same man you always knew. Visits with him may be very special to both of you. However, your feelings are important and valid. You may want to have someone else with you during you visits to help steady your grandfather and to make you feel more at ease.

~*~

"Pat"

Age 16- We’ve semi-switched roles. Gramma used to care for me, now I take care of her. Some things I have to do make me uncomfortable. I don’t want to be resentful and bitter towards Gramma, but sometimes I see her as a burden. My good memories are being ruined. Is it selfish to think of my own life and what I want?

"Dear Pat"
Thinking of your own life is far from being selfish. Talk to your parents and let them know how you feel. Maybe you could swap some of the things that make you uncomfortable for other activities which you enjoy doing. It may be hard, but try to continue to respect your grandmother. Try to focus on the good times. She is still the same person even if she can’t do the things she used to do.

~*~

"Tim"

Age 16- The thing that pains me the most is viewing the effect this is having on my parents. This is ripping dad apart and I know it gets worse every day.

"Dear Tim"
It sounds like you care a great deal for your parents. Situations like this can be difficult for a family. It is important that you and your parents talk about what is happening in your family. Letting your Dad know you are there for him may be the best thing you could do.

~*~

"Anton"

Age 13- Grandma is 91 and has lived with us for 4 years. She has trouble hearing, is brittle and can’t walk fast. She is a nice person, but it’s hard to understand because of her problems.

"Dear Anton"
Continue to be patient with Grandma. Learn all you can about communicating with someone with a hearing impairment. This will make it easier to talk to her. If she will let you, help her up stairs and over carpets that are hard for to walk on.

~*~

"Julie"

Age 17- Sometimes there is too much commotion in the house to study.

"Dear Julie"
You’re right. Sometimes it can become too hectic at home to do homework or study. You might try getting your family to agree to a quiet time for each day. If that doesn’t work try doing your studying at school, at the library or at a friend’s home.

~*~

"Charlie"

Age14- My grandmother has lived with my family for a few years yet she only knows my mother and father. When out with us she walks slowly and looks confused. She is usually a friendly person yet she can become angry and annoying. I rarely invite friends over to my house anymore. I’m just too embarrassed! Why does she always have to come along to school events when she forgets them anyway?

"Dear Charlie"
It’s tough when you feel you can’t invite friends over to your home and find it embarrassing to be with your grandmother. This must make you angry sometimes. Because of her physical difficulties it is probably hard for her to keep up. Her physical condition probably contributes to the changes in her moods, too. Are there any of your friends that you would feel okay about telling about what your situation at home is like? Maybe if they knew, you would feel better and might feel okay about inviting them over. Although it may be confusing why your grandmother attends school functions, she may enjoy herself while she’s there. Your parents may be happy she can be there or they may have no choice to bring her along because they don’t like to leave her alone.

~*~

"Gina"

Age 12- Once while I was home watching Grandma she had an accident. She wet all over herself. I was shocked and did not know how to handle it.

Dear Gina
What happened to your grandmother is called incontinence and can be a problem for people at any age. Your family should consult with a doctor since often incontinence can be helped. Also, I’m sure you’ve seen the advertisements on television for adult diapers as an aid for incontinence. Try not to embarrass her anymore than she is. Just ask if you can help her get cleaned up. Offer her towels to clean up, then ask her if you could help her bathe and change into fresh clothes. Stay calm and do not make a big deal about what happened.

~*~

"Sam"

Age 15- He always says he wants to go home, and this is his home.

Dear Sam
Grandpa might just be confused or may prefer to have things the way they used to be. Maybe you could sit down with him some evening and go through old photo albums of what his home looked like. A trip down memory lane with photos may help him talk to you about why he wants to go "home". Maybe he misses a quiet place to read, a garden to work in, or a shop to putter in. Once you pinpoint why he wants to go home, you may be able to help him feel more at home by replacing what he has been missing. Reassure him that you have become his family now and that you want him to live with you now.

~*~

Desiree

Age 17- I’m very uncomfortable being around my grandfather alone. It’s like he doesn’t remember I’m his granddaughter. There have been times when he has tried to kiss me or touch me. It makes me feel awful.

Dear Desiree
At no time is it appropriate for someone to make unwanted sexual advantages. Do not go into his room alone. If this is impossible, be firm. Say "NO" and divert his attention elsewhere. You must tell your parents or someone you trust about his behavior. It is uncomfortable when this happens. However, your personal well being must always come first!

~*~

"Ray"

Age 18- My grandmother has lost the ability to speak or write. It is stressful for her and us. Because of this, it is hard to know how much she understands and how she feels. Why is she angry? Does she understand? How does she understand the situation?

Dear Ray
Facial expressions, body language and tone of voice are all important parts of communication for both your grandmother and you. Try to maintain a gentle attitude and eye contact, use gentle hand signals to point of direct, and use friendly facial expressions. As you help your grandmother, this will reassure her that you are trying your best to understand what she needs or wants.

~*~

Dear Reader

Respect your elderly relative when you assist in caregiving.

Try not to make your elderly relative feel any more vulnerable than they already do. Don’t use "baby talk" or talk to them as if they were children. Be encouraging and positive. Work together and you may even find things to laugh about.

Sincerely

George

Sources: New York State Department on Aging, Administration on Aging

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