People Caring for Grandchildren Face High Risks During COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Older adults caring for grandchildren may face high risks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • More than 2.7 million grandparents in the United States are raising their grandchildren.
  • These families may face difficult choices about whether or not it’s safe to send children to school or daycare.

As schools across the country prepare to reopen for the fall term, caregivers are getting ready to face the next set of challenges posed by COVID-19.

With kids back in school, the risk of spread is once again posed, potentially putting people within the schools and at home at risk once again. But for a certain set of caregivers, like grandparents, the risk may be higher than for others.

Prior data reports that 2.7 million grandparents in the United States are raising their grandchildren, according to the U.S. Census.

A new study from the division of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Northwell Health’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center and the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research intended to look at the characteristics and challenges many of these households face, which applied to things like adverse childhood experiences and children living with ADHD.

But the research can be extrapolated to also examine how these older adults may be at greater risk for developing COVID-19 as their grandchildren return to school.

The back-to-school debate

Families and policymakers are facing the decision about whether to let their children return to school.

There are benefits and risks to both in-person learning and distance learning, and things to consider on either side.

Paula Christodoulides is the primary caregiver of her two grandchildren, ages 10 and 8. They will be returning to New York City schools in the fall.

The 10-year-old will be attending junior high school, which will be held in the school auditorium one day a week. The other days will be distance learning from home.

“It’s a different structure than I had in mind when [I previously thought] the kids would be in the classroom,” said Christodoulides. “I really don’t have any concerns, as this is the best [the school system] could do. My concern is when they are home, how much are they going to be learning?”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that children under 10 with COVID-19 are far less likely to suffer severe symptoms, although research is still limited. Some young children have had severe symptoms or have died after developing COVID-19.

But children who are kept out of a school setting are more likelyTrusted Source to suffer socially, emotionally, and behaviorally, as schools can often provide support, attention, and even things like proper nutrition that certain home environments cannot.

The issue with older people caring for kids is that children can become potential carriers of COVID-19, bringing it home to a group that’s far more susceptible.

And in these cases, grandparents can’t physically distance from their grandchildren.

A U.K. studyTrusted Source published in The Lancet in early August looked to determine the optimal strategy for reopening schools.

The research found that reopening schools either full-time or in a part-time rota system, starting September 1, 2020, in conjunction with relaxed social distancing measures, will induce a second wave of COVID-19, which would likely peak in December or February depending on the intensity of reopening.