Back to school means a return to stress and anxiety for grandparents during coronavirus pandemic


It’s not just parents trying to get their kids back to school.Some grandparents are trying to find their place in the maze of modified classrooms, distance learning, and home schooling while many of their adult children are working from home.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Joanne Bakker, 59, provided before and after school care to two of her grandchildren in Cooks Creek, Man., About 37 kilometers northeast of Winnipeg.

For two weeks per month, she also slept with her daughter Apryl Schumann while she worked night shifts as a personal support worker for adults with disabilities.

Not seeing his adult children and five grandchildren during confinement left Bakker feeling lost and isolated, increasing his anxiety and depression.

“It was so tough – really tough because we’re all so close, really tight. We would spend so much time together, ”said Bakker.

Dr David Conn, geriatric psychiatrist at Baycrest Hospital in Toronto and co-chair of the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health, said going back to school and rising COVID-19 numbers are of concern to many elderly.

“If a person is prone to anxiety at first, it really makes it worse and maybe pushing someone into an anxiety disorder,” Conn said. “We definitely have some depression with isolation, and I’m a little worried as winter approaches we might see higher rates of depression. ”

WATCH | How do students adapt to new public health protocols?

CBC Manitoba asked high school students what they think of the new rules and protocols accompanying the pandemic. 2:18

‘I am stressed’

Before her grandchildren return to school, Bakker decided to continue providing care while taking precautions to ensure that she and her husband, Ron, are safe.

“There is always a chance for her to be infected because she is in contact with my children, and my children are in contact with several children throughout the day, which connects you to several families,” said said Schumann, Bakker’s daughter. “And really, it’s just a chain. ”

Schumann said it was about following safe protocols of frequent hand washing, sanitizing and respecting everyone’s space.

Bakker said it was a balancing act.

“I am nervous for my grandchildren. I am nervous for their parents. You don’t want to miss seeing your children and grandchildren. But I don’t want to either, ”she said. “And there is my husband who had a heart attack in 2003. He also has to be very careful because if he gets COVID I worry if he could survive it. I don’t want to give it to my husband. “

‘It really creates a dilemma’

She is not alone in her dilemma. That’s a common thread for grandparents during the pandemic, according to Bill VanGorder, director of policy at the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.

He has heard from grandparents across the country telling him that back to school means returning to the stress and anxiety that was so evident during lockdown.

“If they can’t see their grandchildren or have to make decisions based on how they will see their grandchildren due to underlying health issues, it has an emotional impact. It really creates a dilemma, ”VanGorder said.

VanGorder said CARP hears of three different scenarios across the country involving grandparents. The list includes grandparents, like Bakker, who continue to care for their grandchildren before and after school, those who wish they could but cannot due to health issues, and those who live with families. multigenerational.

Tara Martin’s 87-year-old mother-in-law lives with her, her husband and their 10-year-old daughter Sophie in Brandon, Manitoba.

When cases started to climb there in August, Martin contacted his mother-in-law’s doctor and was told his mother-in-law would likely not recover if she contracted the virus. Martin wrote a letter to the school requesting distance learning for Sophie, who is in 5th grade. She was approved, but the family is still waiting for distance learning to begin.

Martin feels relieved that he made the right decision to protect his stepmother. The class her daughter was supposed to be in recorded her first case of COVID-19.

At first, Martin said Sophie was upset to learn that she would not be going back to school with her friends. But his daughter accepted it.

“She loves her grandmother and can’t imagine the idea of ​​her grandmother getting sick,” Martin said.

Roxanne Shuttleworth is relieved for a different reason. Grandmother Dauphin, MB, has two grandsons who will be homeschooled this year. She said that while she was not worried about her own health, she was happy that her grandchildren weren’t at risk of being exposed to COVID-19 in the classroom.

“I was very happy with the decision of my son and my daughter-in-law, who is also a teacher,” said Shuttleworth. “I admit I’m biased, but I said when we were chatting I would feel a lot better if they were homeschooled at their grandmother’s house rather than the rest of the school population.

Bakker wouldn’t have it any other way.

“My children and grandchildren are my life. I would do anything for them. They come first, after my husband. They represent the world to us. And I know, just like we’re here for them now, someday they’ll be there for us. “


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