When mom and dad can’t care for themselves
Written by Janet
What do you do when mom and dad can no longer care for themselves? That is a situation arising quite often for adult children. Statistics show that 41% who have a living parent are providing care for them — either financial help, personal care or both — and 8% of boomers say their parents have moved in with them. Between 2000 and 2007, the number of elderly parents moving in with their kids jumped 67 percent. And experts expect that trend to continue, thanks to the high cost of housing, the cost of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and the nation’s struggling economy.
Of those who are not caring for an aging parent, 37% say they expect to do so in the future. About half say they’re concerned about being able to provide such care. It’s estimated that there are 34 million Americans who are known as unpaid caregivers for elderly adults, usually family members.
They spend approximately 21 hours a week helping out. Among boomers who are helping their parents, 89% say the responsibility is only a “minor sacrifice” or “no sacrifice at all”. As their elderly parents get older, some boomers are beginning to worry they won’t be able to care for them in the future. The typical unpaid caregiver is a 46-year-old woman who works outside the home while taking care of a relative, according to AARP. That burden forces her to cut the hours she works at her regular job by about 41%, causing her salary and benefits to fall sharply.
The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) estimates that $659,000 per person is lost in pensions, Social Security benefits and wages as adult children — mainly women — take time off from work to care for their parents.
There can be a severe physical toll too. Caregivers report having one or more chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, at nearly twice the rate of all Americans. Of those who say their health has worsened because of caregiving, 91% report depression. Also, when an adult child is caring for an elderly parent, the adult child’s family also may have their emotional health threatened.
The “parent of your parent” can unlock your family’s hidden dysfunctions — “You were always Mom’s favorite!” — and reopen old sibling rivalries and conflicts: “You’re trying to kill our father!” If there are family tensions, such as not getting along with your siblings, it can be even more stressful. Elder care can also exhaust and sometimes demoralize the caregiver who’s on the front line. And it can frighten and confuse elderly parents.
In most families, those who are designated the official caregivers are daughters or daughters-in-law, aunts or nieces. Realizing that mom or dad can no longer take care of themselves is not an overnight discovery. Instead, many families realize it bit by bit, as they slowly notice that mom is having trouble driving. Or that dad’s stopped eating. All caregivers usually wait until some kind of crisis occurs to even look into other living arrangements.
But there is good news for caregivers in Florida. There is a support group network called Share the Care in Orlando.
Care for the elderly can be pricey, particularly for middle-class and working class families. Nursing homes cost an average of $200 a day, while assisted-living facilities can cost $30,000 a year. Given the rising cost of health care and the growing elderly population, it’s likely that many Americans may invite elderly parents to live with them in coming years. But aren’t they worth it?