Caregiver's Perspective: Connecting with Grandchildren

Lynn loves children.  He gets such a kick out of watching them play and run around.  Some of his favorite commercials are those that have little children running around getting into things and acting adorable. When my daughter (his step-daughter) announced she was pregnant, he was happy for her and her husband, but didn’t melt into a heap of sweet, gooey, sentiment…that is, until the baby was born.  The first time that soft, tiny, helpless little boy was lain on his Paw Paw’s chest, Paw Paw was addicted to grandparenthood.

When Eli, our grandson, was a little baby, Lynn could interact with him by me holding the baby on Lynn’s lap and turning the pages of a book as Lynn read to him.  Eli loved to have anyone read to him and would sit attentively while Lynn read stories.  I could also wrap Lynn’s arm around Eli, as he sat on Paw Paw’s lap and drove him around in his wheelchair.  I would walk backwards in front of them in case Eli suddenly decided to get down but even though he was very young, he seemed to sense that he had to stay very still when riding Paw Paw’s chair.  He also interacted with him by making a game out of Eli “riding” the peddler Lynn used to keep the spasticity at bay in his legs.  I would hold Eli on one of the foot pedals while it rotated around and Lynn teased him about riding. However, he has outgrown that game.

Now that Eli is 2 years, 7 months, his primary focus is pushing trains and cars. He wants to be at eye level with the toys as he watches their every move.  He also tends to get right in the middle of the tracks and walk over them to get to his vehicles, breaking apart tracks pretty often. Unfortunately, Lynn cannot get on Eli’s level to play.  He cannot fix the tracks or re-attach missing pieces of something. Eli no longer likes to sit and listen to a book being read to him. He wants to be running around.  The result is that Lynn and Eli have very little interaction and that makes Lynn very sad.  He absolutely loves to see Eli even if all he can do is watch him play; therefore, I have had to put on my creative caregiver hat to come up with ways he can play with his grandson.
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When Eli stays with me and Paw Paw, there are many times when Lynn needs attention in another part of the house other than where Eli is playing. Being that the “terrible twos” are all about finding independence and asserting their personalities, he isn’t always thrilled with stopping his play to come to Paw Paw’s room while I do something and I’m not thrilled about having him out of my sight for extended periods of time. So, I keep Lynn’s room stacked with entertainment items that Eli can only use in that room.  He has a train he can push, numbers to count in several areas (Eli loves numbers and letters), a small interactive lap pad that has number and letter games as well as some children’s radios with fun songs they can sing together. That’s worked pretty well until recently when he got new Christmas toys in another room and didn’t want to be stuck in Lynn’s room while I cathed or fed him.

Yesterday I went searching for new ideas of games Lynn can do with him that work with his limited mobility and are age appropriate for Eli.  It’s difficult to find games or activities that don’t require at least some large motor skills; however, I hope I’ve found something.  I got a bean bag tic-tac-toe game that incorporates numbers and shapes into the bean bags and target zones.  I think Lynn will be able to toss the bean bag a little distance so they can play this one together. I also got him a small race car track that Lynn can at least watch him use.

It breaks my heart to see Lynn yearning to get down on the floor to play with his grandson. As his caregiver, it’s my job to get creative on ways they can interact together so that no one gets hurt and both have fun.  That can be a challenge but so far, so good.

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