Grandchildren are among life's greatest joys for older Americans. But new research suggests raising them is another story for grandparents.
Health experts from Case Western Reserve University's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing have found grandmothers who care for their grandkids full time need help for depression and family strains more often than those who don't.
The study — led by Carol Musil, a professor of nursing — is based on the experiences of 240 Ohio grandmothers who were monitored for nearly seven years to see how the responsibilities of caring for their grandchildren 16 years and younger affected their own health and well-being. The women were surveyed about their physical and mental health annually for the first three years, and two more times at the end of study.
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The results of the work, funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research, indicated grandmothers were more likely to suffer stress and depressive symptoms, and also more likely to seek help.
"Although we expected the primary caregiver grandmothers raising grandchildren would have more strain and depressive symptoms, we were surprised at how persistent these were over the years examined in the study," said Musil, whose findings were reported in the latest edition of Nursing Outlook, the journal of the American Academy of Nursing and the Council for the Advancement of Nursing Science.
Some 6.2 million, or 5.3 percent of all U.S. households, have a grandparent living in the house, according to U.S. Census data. Musil said more than 1 million grandmothers are responsible for raising grandchildren whose parents do not live in the home.
Despite the signs of depression and family stress, researchers found that grandmothers raising their children's kids were generally open to receiving various forms of help.
"They need support from others," Musil 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."
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