BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7) - A rise in Methamphetamine and opioid use is changing family dynamics in our area. Experts are seeing more and more grandparents step in to take over care as parents struggle with addiction.
Bedford County has seen an increase in grandparents taking care of children, but also more grandparents burning out because of how difficult it is. This has caused a unique group to form here and offer support to these seniors.
Erm is the President of Bedford Area Seniors Raising Kids. It’s a group that she and two other women founded last January, all for personal reasons.
Erm holds a picture of three children. “Tandra, Kaley and CS,” she said with pride.
Three children that their Great Aunt Erm didn't plan to raise in her senior years, but after their parents struggled with drug addiction, Erm and her sister stepped in.
I could tell you wonderful stories about when they were little,” said Erm. “I could also tell you some horror stories about when they were little and the emotional reactions they had.”
Erm's family is a part of a growing trend of what experts call "grand families".
“They don't get a lot of social support. Their friends will say things like why would you even do that or why would you do that?” said Kathy McElroy, Family Services Supervisor for Bedford County.
Erm had to charter new territory mostly by herself.
She's dealt with some creative outfit choices and she has turned meltdowns into parenting moments.
But this past July, Erm had to encounter the unthinkable
All of her pain....last July she succumbed to it and she took her own life,” said Erm, talking about her 13-year-old “daughter” Kaley.
As a senior parent, this was especially difficult for Erm to handle.
“I would not undo what I have given at all. But I know that I also have been losing my seniorness,” said Erm.
It’s a role so complex that Erm and some friends have created BaSRK to help others navigate it. They are in the early stages and still trying to get the word out. But as the numbers continue to grow in Bedford, they are hoping to be a support to people in similar positions as them.