As a grandparent raising grandchildren, you may be anxious about who would care for your child if you get sick. You are not alone. While it remains unlikely that you will become seriously ill, let’s be real: older people are really, truly at higher risk. One suggestion: join our Facebook Support group.

Meanwhile, are sensible, practical, reassuring thoughts from an online discussion in Washington state (March 11, 2020).

Things get very, very difficult to manage.

I’m already my wife’s caregiver. She’s sick all the time… Virus or no virus. When I’m also ill, we put everything on hold, pay to have groceries delivered or do curb pick-up, and everyone focuses solely on drinking enough water.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what else happens. As long as we stay hydrated, eventually we’ll mend.

It’s also MUCH easier now that our kid is older and has learned how to use the toaster and microwave. I’m a hippy-dippy granola crunching mom most of the time. But sometimes a can of spaghetti-O’s with a side of Eggo waffle saves the day.


You do what you can.

You rally. You tap into strength you didn’t know you had. You do what you must and sometimes that means your kiddo watches too much TV, or they are left to their own devices more than usual.

You get cup o noodle and easy Mac if their old enough, or even just pudding in a tub. So they eat ice cream for a meal or two? They’ll be ok.

Worst case both parents are hospitalized. Really unlikely but not impossible. You find a friend, a relative, a neighbor. You reach out and find that people are a lot more capable and willing when a crisis really hits.

Most likely you both rest more than usual, and your kiddo is bored and rots their brain with a few days of YouTube and probably eats too much junk food, but then you get better and it’s all just a fun story for them to tell their grandkids about when the Outbreak of 2020 is brought up in social studies.


Hunker down and keep an eye on each other.

So some years back, we got hit with the flu. We were so sick; I couldn’t even leave my bed for a week. But… I had a 6-year-old and 4-year-old. They needed to eat, they needed someone to watch them (and later someone to give them medications because they were sick).

We ended up putting a huge air mattress in the living room. The kids and I lived in that room for a week. Easy TV access, on the main floor. I could sleep while they watched a movie or whatever. Food became whatever snacks I had on hand – apple sauce cups, juice boxes, satsumas, gold fish crackers.

Because of that I made sure this time my air mattress was in good working order, and that I have a ton of easy to eat, simple foods on hand. Canned soups, crackers, Tang, fruit cups, and a bag of oranges. My kids are now nearly 14 and 11, but if this is as bad as people are saying I imagine we’ll be more comfortable being able to hunker down and be able to keep an eye on each other.


Start with the teacher.

If your child is school-age or in daycare, a good place to start is with their teacher. Explain your concerns, and ask if there are any other parents worried about this issue. If your child has some particularly good friends in their classroom, reach out to their parents. Working together to form a sort of emergency childcare co-op could relieve anxiety for you and others – you don’t have to be close friends with any of them, just be available for each other in the event of an emergency, even if it’s to drop groceries or medications at their door. And yes, I realize that caring for a sick person’s child opens you up to possible illness as well, but chances are if a child in the classroom has infected relatives, your child’s been exposed already. Take the precautions that you can.

If your child is not yet in school or daycare, and you’re able to recuperate at home, you rely on TV and packaged food that doesn’t require cooking. In the unlikely event that both of you were so sick you needed to be hospitalized suddenly, hospitals and EMTs can contact social workers, CPS, or the police.


Tips from a social worker.

In the event that you are both hospitalized suddenly and the hospital social worker and/or CPS get involved to find appropriate care for your children, they will look for family or other adults that know your children before resorting to a foster care placement. If you’re both completely incapacitated and your child is placed in protective custody with CPS, they will initially find a 72-hour temporary placement for the child while they can reach out to other people in the child’s life (neighbor, teacher, family, friends) to make a plan for their care while you are unable to parent. So it won’t be immediately to foster care if they can find something less disruptive.

It’s good to have a list of the people you’d most want them to reach out to and their contact info. And if the kids are old enough, talk to your kids about who they would stay with if that happened so they can tell the social worker in a worst case scenario.

From a CPS social worker in King and Pierce County, WA.

Now is a good time to meet other parents.

Social distancing in mind, now’s a good time to meet some parents of similarly aged kids either from school, neighborhood, church, etc.

When our kids were younger, we had agreements with the neighbors who have similarly aged kids for backup care. This started as covering for scenarios like if we’re both late from work, but now has evolved into sleepovers and the occasional vacation together.

Based on statistics, if both of you are younger than 60 and healthy, the chances of both of you requiring hospitalization is very low. You do the parent thing even if the last thing you want to do is get out of bed. Fortunately, this virus doesn’t seem to affect kids very much.


We all need to look out for each other.

Get to know your neighbors. Check on them daily if they are at risk. Have someone check on you. Set up a circle of neighbors to check on each other. It’ll be a somewhat scary but neighborly thing to do.


Society comes together.

If you have a partner, you have good odds that at least one of you will be functional enough to lay on the couch and let them binge-watch TV.

I will say, if a friend or neighbor needed me to drop off groceries, I would do it. If they needed their kids cared for in the hospital, I would do it even risking my own life. During the Spanish flu, people were very selfless. I think society comes together in times like this.