When a senior starts end-of-life care, it can be a difficult time for friends, family members and caregivers alike. This time can be emotional and draining and it can take a toll on many of the individuals involved. However, many times during all of the turmoil surrounding end-of-life care, many families forget to include young children in the discussion.
When a grandchild has to see their grandparent endure end-of-life care, it can be very overwhelming. While some families will try to protect children from the reality of the situation, it doesn't mean that even young grandchildren don't know something is going on. It can be difficult to discuss this type of care with any grandchild, no matter how young or old they may be. However, it is important that they are still included in the conversation and part of the experience.
Speaking to children about death can be difficult enough, especially when it involves the death of a loved one. However, explaining hospice or end-of-life care to a child can be even more challenging than discussing death. With this in mind, all caregivers and family members need to be aware of the grandchildren involved when end-of-life care begins, and make sure that they are doing what they can to keep these children involved and engaged with the care process and what is going on with their grandparent in a way that is still appropriate for their age.
These tips can help any grandchild through this difficult process and ensure the child is prepared for their impending loss.
Start The Discussion Early
It can be hard to bring topics like these up with children, but many times, children do better with handling death when they have more time to process the reality of the situation. When the grandparent starts ailing or moves to a new nursing home or assisted living community to receive end-of-life care it can be a good time to discuss their transition and their upcoming care situation.
If the loved one stays in the same place, try to have the conversation as early as possible, before the grandparent becomes noticeably frail or the child notices a drastic change in their loved one. Death can be a difficult topic for children to comprehend, especially when it comes to the permanence of death. However, many times discussing the recent death of a pet can help children understand.
It is important to help children understand that death is a part of life and that it marks the end of life, and that everyone and everything will eventually die someday. Typically, the shorter and sweeter the conversation is, the more effective it is. Try not to dive into the details or particulars of the how of death, just give the child plenty of time to take in all of the information.
It is also important to let the child know that their grandparent is reaching that time in their lives. Let them know it is alright to be sad and that you too are sad about the loss. It can be a difficult conversation to have, but many times, it is easier to start talking about death before it happens so that the family doesn't have to have these difficult conversations while dealing with their own grieving process.
Try to Answer All Questions
Many familial caregivers never assume that having these discussions with children will be part of their role as a caregiver. However, it is important that caregivers are able to step in and answer all of the questions that the grandchildren have, even if they are difficult.
Many children are understandably confused about death and how permanent it is. They may ask if they will ever be able to see their grandparent again, or if they can visit them in heaven. These are difficult questions to answer but questions that many children have. There are even some books and guides designed specifically to help children get a better grasp on the concept of death and dying.
The more information that you can provide them with, the better off they will be. Some children may not repeat these questions to their grandparent while others will want to ask their grandparent as many questions as possible. It is essential that you help prepare your senior loved one for answering difficult questions such as this. While these questions may be difficult for you to answer as a caregiver, they can be even more challenging for senior grandparents who are dealing with the prospect of end-of-life care.
Give the Child Extra Time With Their Grandparents
End-of-life care is difficult on everyone involved. It can be challenging for loved ones, family members and for the senior transitioning to this new type of care. It is important that both the senior and their grandchildren feel as though they have adequate time together. There is a unique bond between grandparents and their grandchildren, and both parties will likely want to spend time together during this difficult care situation. Both seniors and the grandchildren should be consulted when it comes to scheduling time together.
In situations where the senior is not aware of their surroundings, it may still be comforting for the grandchild to come in and see their loved one before they pass. Some seniors will want to do a special activity or spend time together alone. It all depends on the needs of the senior and of the child, but this time is important.
If possible, seniors should be included in the process when it comes to determining how their grandchild is introduced to this new situation. Hospice care is a very difficult subject to bring up, but many seniors want to make sure that they are spending their final days in the way they want to. For many, this means spending a lot of time with their grandchildren. Keeping everyone involved in the process and how this important time is spent can only help the entire family, seniors and grandchildren included, feel as comfortable as possible with this challenging time.