Health coverage is one of the challenges grandparents face when taking on the parental role again.
By Adolfo Flores
Researchers liken health coverage for grandparent caregivers to oxygen masks in an airplane. How can they look after the children when they’re not taking care of themselves?
Yet, like so many grandparents, Maria Olvera, 51, neglected her health because she was caught between job obligations and taking care of her grandchildren, Richard, age two, and his sister, Jennifer, 10. Their father was killed two years ago in a drive-by shooting, and their mother was deported in 2010.
It got to the point where Olvera was beginning to lose her sight because of her untreated diabetes.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 6.4 million grandparents were living in households with grandchildren under age 18 in 2008, and 2.6 million of them had primary responsibility for parenting their grandchildren.
Health coverage is one of the challenges grandparents face when taking on the parental role again, says Jaia Peterson Lent of Generations United [www.gu.org], in Washington, D.C. Seeking medical coverage for themselves and the children is crucial. And without the proper information some families can lose out.
“There’s always a challenge related to lack of information. Medicaid usually always covers children,” Lent says. “But often times grandparents aren’t aware of how to apply, what steps to take. Or they’re not sure if they even qualify. I’ve heard of cases when older adults use up their retirement savings.”
Olvera depends heavily on a family program at her grandchildren’s elementary school for guidance on how to get Medicaid coverage for the kids, schedule medical appointments for her and buy groceries.
The center does everything from helping families with food to taking them to the hospital and going over letters they receive in the mail. A majority of the parents are women.
“She was always very hesitant to seek help; we would
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