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? 



  1. newsdeskinternational

    Here is some info that ties into this article > Imagine how it would be, if they were left home alone…..

    47,000 elderly falls in US tied to canes, walkers

    Health officials say more than 47,000 elderly Americans end up in emergency rooms each year from falls involving walkers and canes.

    That’s almost 3 percent of all falls among people 65 and older. Government researchers came up with the estimate by looking at six years of ER medical records. Nearly 9 out of 10 of the injuries involved walkers, rather than canes.

    Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday their study shows that doctors should take more time to better fit patients with walking aids and to teach how to use them safely. The study is being published this month in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

  2. newsdeskinternational

    Pt 2 > Britain’s view

    Many people regard caring for the elderly a privilege, but it can sometimes become intolerably hard. There will often be turmoil between wanting to do what’s best for that loved one, and the carer wanting their own life. British researchers say it’s normal to feel this way. Taking on the caregiving responsibility will have a huge impact on your life. As in the US, in Britain it’s about the same, the age of the primary carers are women in their 50s.

    It is estimated there are 6 million carers in the UK, and over 1 million of them are over retirement age. However, these carers can feel isolated. It can be difficult to take a break from caring. Carers often feel a variety of emotions and it can be hard to remove emotions from the equation. However much care is given, old age is not a curable disease. Seeing loved ones decline in health and strength can be painful, and it can be very discouraging to know this is happening regardless of your best efforts.

  3. newsdeskinternational

    1 in 4 elderly need care decisions made for them

    A significant number of the elderly — more than one in four — will eventually need someone to make end-of-life decisions about their medical care, a new study suggests.

    The results illustrate the value of people making their wishes known in a living will and designating someone to make treatment decisions for them, the researchers said.

    In the study, those who spelled out their preferences in living wills usually got the treatment they wanted. Only a few wanted heroic measures to prolong their lives.

    The researchers said it’s the first accounting of how many of the elderly really end up needing medical decisions made for them.

    Last year, end-of-life care became embroiled in the health care reform debate. A provision in the legislation would have allowed Medicare to pay doctors for counseling patients about end-of-life issues like living wills.

    Critics labeled the counseling “death panels” and the proposal was eventually dropped before the researchers could get their report out. They had pushed to complete the study because of the national debate, but it took time to get it published, said the study’s leader, Dr. Maria Silveira. She teaches at the University of Michigan and does research for Veterans Affairs.

    The study is in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.

    The researchers concluded that advance directives — living wills and health proxies chosen to make end-of-life decisions — are “important tools for providing care in keeping with patients’ wishes.”

    The use of these directives has increased in the U.S. despite debate about their effectiveness. For the past two decades, hospitals and facilities that take Medicare patients are required to provide information on them.

    A living will states a person’s choices for treatment if he becomes incapacitated, but critics complain they are too vague to be helpful. A health care proxy names another person — usually a relative or friend — to make medical decisions if needed. Many people have both.

    Typical decisions involve the use of breathing machines or feeding tubes or giving someone CPR.

    In the study, researchers looked at how often the elderly reach the point where they can’t make their own care decisions near the end of life — usually because of dementia, a stroke or a debilitating illness. They also examined how many had living wills or a proxy and the outcome.

    The study included 3,746 people age 60 and older who died between 2000 and 2006. The average age was 80.

    About 30 percent needed a treatment decision made before death but couldn’t do it themselves. Of those, about two-thirds had either a living will, a proxy or both.

    After the person died, relatives were interviewed to find out if the person’s wishes were followed. Most reported that they had. Nearly all the patients had wanted limited or “comfort” care; only 2 percent wanted aggressive care.

    Advance directives are available for individual states online, http://www.caringinfo.org/PlanningAhead.htm, and an attorney isn’t needed, a popular misconception, Silveira said.

    “We don’t expect perfection out of these documents,” she said. “They’re there to make a difficult situation maybe a little bit less so.”

    The study’s results, while “tantalizing”, haven’t convinced Dr. Muriel Gillick of Harvard Medical School that living wills are all that useful. Ideally, older patients, along with their proxy, should discuss their medical condition, goals and treatment options with a physician — instead of just signing a form, she said.

    In an editorial in the journal, Gillick said the findings nevertheless “demonstrate that talking about the goals of medical care has become acceptable to a large majority of Americans who need it most.”

    An alternative, she said, is a program with a more detailed form that includes doctor’s orders for specific care — called “physician orders for life-sustaining treatment.” The program has been adopted in a few states.

    One community that has embraced advanced directives is La Crosse, Wis. A citywide program grew out of the counseling experience of Bernard “Bud” Hammes at Gundersen Lutheran hospital. Hammes said he saw how distressing it was for three families who had to decide whether to continue dialysis for patients who had suffered serious strokes.

    He asked them what their relative would want. “In all three cases, the family said: ‘We have no idea. We never talked about it,'” he recalled.

    A program called Respecting Choices is now used by the city’s hospitals, nursing homes and other health-care providers. Today, most patients — 85 percent — have a care plan when they die.

  4. newsdeskinternational

    Dealing with an independent aging parent can make helping out hard

    This is a conversation no son or daughter wants to have with their aging mom or dad: I think it’s time for you to stop driving.

    But with people living a lot longer these days, that’s a conversation that a lot of people are going to have to face. So how do you keep a discussion, which is based in love and concern, from becoming a huge fight?


  5. my family and I are looking for whats best for mom she had a major stroke just about a year ago and is still in a rehab/skilled nursing home she as made some progress in the last coming months of course dad and I want her home but deep down her speech and mobility to walk around and just do the simple day to day things for her self is no longer an option her mind and her spriit is still with us we just thought with a full time nurse for a few hours and days a week would be enough along with the help from dad I …and other family memebers its is recommend that she remains where she is so she can get the around the clock care that she will need from here on out its been really hard and stressful at times we just want the best for mom at times we were looking what was best for us …is this normal we are a tough family lots of fight left in her …any advice ….as we go through this journery with MOM

  6. Janet

    It’s a tough decision to make. And it’s hard for the families to be there constantly for their care. But if you have the time and energy, that’s a different situation. You also have to bear in mind, you will have to be lifting her a lot, as you said she doesn’t have the mobility she once had. On the other hand, more families are home caring for the elderly, as the cost for nursing home care is high….

    It all depends on how much damage the stroke has done, whether or not family can take on such a task.

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