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Grandparents Raising Grandchildren group offers virtual support for older adults

Isolation is an issue many of the older adults Metropolitan serves have dealt with even before the outbreak of Covid-19; as social distancing and shelter in place mandates deepen that isolation, the Older Caregivers Project at our Midway Center consistently finds ways to offer meaningful activity and engagement.

The staff began with a “roundtable” phone call. They checked in with our seniors about things they are grateful for, identified positive perspectives together, and shared how they are coping with the quarantine and having the children home.

Since then, regular support groups, including our Grandparents Raising Grandchildren group, have resumed over Zoom – and now take place more often, in response to seniors asking for more regular contact. Grandparents Raising Grandchildren is open to senior caregivers that are actively parenting foster children or biological grandchildren.

One participant shares: “I am very pleased with the program, a lot that we do helps me use my time. The seminars are good and we do different things, I thank everyone for everything, William especially. The program is very uplifting and I am very pleased.”

Recent funding from the Department of Child and Family Services and the Illinois Department of Aging enabled our staff to purchase Samsung tablets and covers for caregivers in the Older Caregivers Project and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program. The tablets help our caregivers stay connected with our programs and each other, as well as with their own family and friends, and allow them to participate in the virtual meetings around school and case management for the children in their care.

Staying connected with our seniors also helps our staff identify what their needs are. Our staff delivers supplies by dropping bags off on porches and confirming they’ve been retrieved. At first, seniors requested items like non-perishable food and hygiene products. More recently, our staff have also been delivering “family food and fun bags” with PPE and snacks, as well as sidewalk chalk, mini-planters, large-print crossword puzzles, kid-friendly card games, and books on trauma-informed parenting.

Supplies for the “family food and fun” bags, the staff putting the bags together, and an ice cream outing to celebrate!

These groups offer connection and conversation, as well as a favorite activity: Bingo. The games took place over Zoom, then staff dropped off prizes to the winners’ homes.

Staff bring in speakers on topics including mindfulness and meditation, remote learning tips for caregivers, and legal issues facing seniors. During a workshop for Do-It-Yourself masks, participants learned to make protective masks from everyday items like t-shirts, bandanas, and napkins.

“The program is fantastic, William is … I can’t find the words to express,” shares another participant. “I appreciate the group and hope it continues to be successful.”

Bingo winners received goody bags as prizes – featuring Girl Scout cookies!

In talking with those in the program, our staff are encouraged by the positive feedback they receive.

In their own words, our older adults share their experiences with the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren group:

“I always enjoyed myself and being with the group, I have learned a lot and I love coming.”

“I love the group/program, it’s very helpful to me.”

“I don’t have any complaints, everyone is very attentive. William is on his job without a doubt! All of the Zoom workshops have been helpful as well.”

“I am very pleased with GRG, I love and appreciate it. The staff is awesome.”

“I enjoy the program. I’ve been out for some time, but I am back and I appreciate William calling to check on me.”

“I enjoy the program, Rose and William are very nice, thanks for the care package. Keep up the good work.”

“I haven’t been with the group that long but I appreciate everything and I’m learning a lot. William calls me every week and I appreciate the group.”

“I am new but I have enjoyed the group tremendously. I hope to continue to learn through your program.”

“I haven’t been in the group that long but I like it. I got a lovely care package and I greatly appreciate it. I will continue to participate with the program.”

“I don’t care for Zoom but I Love the program.”

ABOUT THE OLDER CAREGIVERS PROJECT

Metropolitan’s Older Caregivers Project helps older caregivers plan for children’s long term care. It aids families in establishing a stronger support system through case management and linkages to community resources, ensures the well-being and safety of the children and caregivers, and provides a recommendation regarding the living arrangements for the children.

Are you (or an older caregiver in your life) eligible for the Older Caregivers Project? The program is available for adults aged 60 years and up who are parenting via adoption, subsidized guardianship or foster care, or seeking permanency for the children in their care.

More about the Older Caregivers Project

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