In a perfect world, all grandparents would be fit and strong. Ironically, many grandparents with Parkinson’s must cope with disabilities that make grandparenting a challenge. While there are no instructions as to what to do and what not to do, you can always rely on your experience to cope with the challenges posed by the disease and rise above them. Here, we offer a few ways to have a good time with your grandchildren, without worrying too much about Parkinson’s.
- Don’t use up your energy if you know you’ll be watching the baby tomorrow. Time your exercise timing according to their sleeping cycle.
- Use large milk bottles to feed them. This should help you if fine motor movement is an issue.
- Practice makes perfect. If you have trouble moving the perambulator, practice and practice till you have mastered the art. With certain assistive devices, you can always minimize fatigue.
- Only offer what you can give. Be realistic about how much time you have, your levels of fatigue and confidence when it comes to baby-wrangling. Make the arrangement such as hiring a nanny if needed. Carry your phone everywhere for any emergency help.
- A climbing toddler can tax your stiffed body and can even cause injuries. To ensure that they remain playful, give them soft toys to play with.
- Use assistive such as electric wheelchair if the toddler has been very playful and running around the house. Ask your caregiver to keep your home clutter-free. This will allow free movement while using an electric wheelchair.
- Getting your grandchildren outdoors and taking them to places they love build memories and camaraderie. Be the adventurous grandparent and excite them every time they visit you. Go to a park, the zoo, a craft place or a show with them. Get an early start to avoid heavy traffic and overcrowded places.
- Walking is one good exercise for grandparents with Parkinson’s disease. Play games as you walk.
Pre-schoolers to Grade-schoolers
- Be the family historian. Tell them all you know about family history, and what life was like when you were young. If speech is an issue, then do so by showing old picture albums.
- Give gifts that the grandchildren will appreciate. However, be careful not to over-spoil them. Give them the odd treat that you know their parents won’t be offering them.
- Educate them about Parkinson’s disease. Doing so will empower them to educate others who have never heard about the condition. Of course, choosing when and how to talk about Parkinson’s disease with children is a very personal choice and largely depends on how old your grandkid is.
- If you don’t see your grandchildren regularly, stay connected. In this technological age, computers, tablets and smart phones can act as great tools for keeping in touch and also for game-playing. Grandparents and grandchildren can virtually visit each other using Skype or FaceTime (use the microphone if you have slurry speech). This way, they are less likely to be shy when you meet them during their teenage.
- Don’t admit your fears. Your beloved teen grandchild is about to embark on lifelong adulthood. Whichever phrase of warning or concern springs to your lips, hold it in. Your loved one needs support, not dread.
- Avoid being mean or unsupportive. This will only cause the grandchildren to not tell you things in future. Be supportive of their choices. If they make choices that you really cannot connect with, explore your own reasons for being uncomfortable with it.
- Being a great listener is a great grand-parenting skill that most grandparents with Parkinson’s can manage.
- Let your grandchildren know that you’re always there for them. You can do that by being least judgmental. Avoid negative remarks. Instead, aim to explain to them how things were different when you grew up. Use it as a way to examine change, not as a way to pass judgment on the child’s actions or thinking.