Grandmothers who take care of their grandchildren full time need support for depression and stress, say researchers from Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing.
The research is one of the longest-running studies on grandmothers in a variety of family circumstances — from serving as their grandkids’ full-time caregivers to those not caring for their grandchildren as a comparison.
“Although we expected the primary caregiver grandmothers raising grandchildren would have more strain and depressive symptoms,” said Carol Musil, Ph.D., R.N., professor of nursing, “we were surprised at how persistent these were over the years examined in the study.”
Around 6.2 million, or 5.3 percent of all households in the U.S., have a grandparent living with the family, according to U.S. Census data.
Musil said over 1 million grandmothers are the primary caregivers for grandchildren whose parents do not live in the home.
For the study, Musil tracked and assessed the health and happiness of 240 grandmothers for 6 1/2 years to see how the responsibilities of caring for their grandchildren, aged 16 years and younger, affected their health over time.
The grandmothers self-reported their physical and mental health annually for the first three years, and then two more times, 2- 2 ½ years apart at the end of study.
The grandmothers, who averaged 57.5 years old at the beginning of the study, were in three caregiving situations: those who are fulltime caregivers for their grandchildren, living in multigenerational homes, or non-caregivers. They were randomly selected throughout Ohio, from rural, suburban and urban areas.
Researchers found that the grandmothers — particularly those raising grandchildren — were generally open to receiving various forms of help.
This suggests, Musil said, that grandmothers might be open to resourcefulness training, which has been proven to help reduce depressive symptoms in grandmothers in other pilot studies.
“They need support from others,” she said, “but the most important thing is to maintain and perhaps develop new cognitive and behavioral skills and approaches for handling some very challenging family issues.”
The study is published in Nursing Outlook.
Source: Case Western Reserve University