Carol Musil, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor of nursing, recently
conducted one the longest-running studies on grandmothers in various family
situations, from serving as their grandkids’ fulltime caregivers to those not
caring for their grandchildren as a comparison.
“Although we expected the primary caregiver grandmothers
raising grandchildren would have more strain and depressive symptoms, “Musil
said, “We were surprised at how persistent these were over the years examined
in the study.”
Results of the study, funded by a grant from the National
Institute of Nursing Research, were reported in Nursing Outlook, the journal of
the American Academy of Nursing and the Council for the Advancement of Nursing
Some 6.2 million, or 5.3% of all US households, have a
grandparent living in the house, according to US Census data. Musil said over 1
million grandmothers are responsible for raising grandchildren whose parents do
not live in the home.
Musil tracked and focused on the health and well-being of 240
grandmothers they studied for 6 1/2 years to see how the responsibilities of
caring for their grandchildren 16 years and younger affected their health over
Open to help
The subjects were surveyed about their physical and mental
health annually for the first three years, and two more times, 2- 2 ½ years
apart at the end of study.
The grandmothers, who averaged 57.5 years old at study
onset, were in three caregiving situations: those who are fulltime caregivers
for their grandchildren, living in multigenerational homes or non-caregivers.
They were randomly selected throughout Ohio, representing rural, suburban and
Despite the signs of depression and family stress,
researchers also found that the grandmothers, especially those raising
grandchildren, were generally open to receiving various forms of help. That
implies, Musil said, that grandmothers might be open to resourcefulness
training, which has helped to reduce depressive symptoms in grandmothers in
pilot studies conducted with Jaclene Zauszniewski.
“They need support from others,” she said, “but the most
important thing is to maintain and perhaps develop new cognitive and behavioural
skills and approaches for handling some very challenging family issues.”