Several months ago, my adult daughter Marissa, newly separated from her husband and still reeling from that blow, received a terrible diagnosis for her 3-year-old daughter, Mena.
We had noticed Mena’s increased appetite, fits of bad behavior and especially her constant thirst. The pediatrician confirmed our suspicions, that Mena had juvenile diabetes, which would follow her for the rest of her life.
She was rushed to a metropolitan juvenile hospital, and she and her mom spent a week there for monitoring, stabilizing and training. It was unexpected and intense.
The news of this life sentence for my precious little Mena was staggering and came so unexpectedly that, although I tried to help, I was frozen in despair for both my granddaughter and my daughter. Both of their lives had changed forever.
Now, two months later, the dust has settled, and life has returned to a new normal. Marissa has proven herself to be the fierce, strong woman that she needs to be as a single mother of a seriously ill child, and I have come to terms with Mena’s condition and have found many ways to help.
These suggestions are based on my own experiences as well as ideas from others in similar situations.
Offer to babysit for siblings or to ride along with parent and child to hospital trainings and doctor appointments.
Doing dishes, laundry, changing sheets, mopping floors and doing any and all manner of chores will be one less worry for caregivers.
Knowing that a meal is ready to only be heated and eaten will remove a layer of stress from a parent with other children to feed.
Carve out time to spend with brothers and sisters who may be experiencing feelings of abandonment, anger and frustration.
Investigating all you can, from treatment options to experimental and even homeopathic alternatives, will be something that parents may be too overwhelmed to do on their own.
Offering a break may seem like a small thing, but the relief that this ‘time off’ will provide is unmeasurable to an overwhelmed caregiver.
Not everyone will want to do this, but for a grandparent who needs answers, joining a group of people who are dealing with similar problems can help.
Investigate therapists and have contact information ready should the ill child, siblings, parent(s), and/or marriage counselors be needed.
Suggest to a parent that you be listed as a person who can work on the insurance policy questions that will arise.
Jump in to help with carpooling, pick-up after school, playdates and other times that the caregiver(s) could use help.
Whether it’s a full tank of gas, a few bags of groceries or taking kids for haircuts, providing any kind of financial help will be greatly appreciated.
When a child is diagnosed with a chronic illness, it affects everyone in the family. Guilt, shame, anger, despair, grief, fear and frustration are a few of the emotions that those involved may experience.
Anything that you, as a grandparent, can do to help, will go a long way toward returning life to normal, even if it’s a ‘new’ normal. Lead with your heart, and you will not go wrong.
What do you know about juvenile diabetes? Do you have a grandchild who has been given a difficult diagnosis? What have you done to help? Please share any suggestions that have worked for you.