The following post was written by Emily Wills, a junior studying communications at Villanova University. Emily joined SecondSenior as an intern in the fall of 2016 to help spread the word about the opportunity SecondSenior brings to both students and families in the Villanova community.
I grew up a mile away from Bub and G, my paternal grandparents. Some of my earliest memories include naming the frogs in my grandma’s garden and eating maraschino cherries with my grandpa. It always seemed like I was the one getting older, but the past couple of years have shown me that even my youthful grandparents are aging, too.
On December 22nd of 2014, my grandmother got into a car accident. She was unaware that she had a heart condition, and she passed out behind the wheel. After spending a couple of weeks in the hospital, my grandma was able to go home. While it was reassuring to know that she was healthy enough to leave the hospital, it also meant that she was no longer under the watchful eye of nurses and doctors. She was permitted to live at home, but we quickly found out that she was not as strong as she was before the accident. Simple tasks like reaching the top shelf or getting the mail became more dangerous for my grandparents, and they weren’t used to needing so much help from others.
Like many seniors, Bub and G were determined to sustain their independence. This determination (some would call it stubbornness) led to frequent falls and visits to the emergency room. While my family was willing and able to accommodate my grandparents’ needs, it was stressful knowing that we couldn’t always be there.
That summer, both my sister and I were home and were fortunate to be in a position to be able to assist my grandparents with whatever they needed. On one of my days off, I was in the car heading to New Hampshire with my friends when my phone rang. The call was coming from Bub and G’s house. My heart started racing - not knowing what news I’d receive on the other end of the call. When I answered, I was relieved to hear that my grandma was just calling to thank me for getting their mail.
I’m extremely thankful that the call I received that summer day wasn’t a serious one. However, simply being in that situation for a moment - knowing that I have loved ones who are at risk in the home - gave me a glimpse into the type of stress that everyday family caregivers go through on a regular basis. It’s an experience that has inspired me to want to help the millions of other families going through the same hardships of caring for an elderly loved one (or two, in our case) in the home.
I joined SecondSenior because I believe that our grandparents deserve to age safely in the home, and the family caregivers who care for them deserve our help.