With an increase in life expectancy and an aging “Baby Boomer” generation, many young Americans are being confronted by tough decisions regarding care for their aging parents. Adult children and relatives make up sixty-eight percent of caregivers for Americans over age sixty-five (1).
Many young adults are confronted by the pressures of preparing for the care of an elderly parent. Generations “X” and “Y” are the next generations who will be facing these decisions. These generations are more self-driven, making the decision to care for an elderly parent more difficult. There is ongoing debate whether or not adults are responsible for the care of one or both of their parents especially among these younger generations.
The main concerns of providing care for an elderly parent or relative are: financial decline, rising healthcare costs, mounting responsibility, and the stress of a live-in care situation on a young family, especially if Dementia or Alzheimer’s is present. Fortunately, most caregivers report being pleased with their decision to provide care for their elderly parent. There is great reward in caring for the same person who cared for you so many years ago.
Table of Contents
Declining Health in Caregivers
Nearly half of caregivers are over the age of fifty (1). This naturally invites an increased vulnerability to the decline of the caregiver’s health. Furthermore, one third of the caregivers over the age of 50 describe their own health as fair to poor (2).
Unfortunately, this is not a win-win situation. The elderly parent is being cared for but at what expense? A recent nationwide study of caregivers reports that stress is the number one health issue among caregivers (3). The effects of stress on the body include heart problems, depression, and gastro-intestinal issues. If health issues are ignored, the elderly parent can outlive their adult child in the caregiver setting.
Other Unique Challenges
There are many unique challenges to caring for an elderly parent. These challenges include: feeling alienated by peers, resentment and anger followed by feelings of guilt, time away from work, and feelings of being overwhelmed. Many caregivers report resentment in the elderly parent, regular child-like arguments, lack of freedoms, and constant attention needed for the adult parent. Fortunately, having multiple resources to draw on reduces the potential for full blown crises.
In addition to family, friends, and support groups, the internet holds many resources. There are multiple forums, educational websites, blogs, and publications that can provide much needed support for caregivers in their time of need. The Aging Parents and Eldercare website provides multiple resources from checklists to support. Another informative resource is the Custom Care Guide which is a personalized based on the caregiving situation and particular ailments. For more direct support network information, the Elder Care website is a great resource. The American Society on Aging and AGIS pages also provide valuable information.
It is less of a burden to proceed through the ups and downs of caring for an elderly parent when there are others to share experiences with. It is also beneficial to simply read through some discussions and see how other caregivers have responded to certain feelings, behaviors, and situations. Forums and threads are a great support link. They will give many opportunities to learn from, or chat with, others with the same challenges.
It’s Going to be Ok
Caring for an elderly parent can be a delightful experience after feelings and emotions are brought under control. Based on support and resources, the caregiver can move through each day with minimal stress and efficient care. There are many local support groups sponsored by hospitals, government, senior centers, and churches. Many others caregivers are going through similar experiences. Relying on family and friends and familiarity with online tools will help build an essential resource that can be counted on time and time again.
(1) Spector, W. D. et al. The Characteristics of Long-Term Care Users. AHRQ Publication No. 00-0049. Rockville: Agency for Healthcare Research and Policy.
(2) Administration on Aging, “Investments in Change, Enhancing the Health and Independence of Older Adults”
(3) Evercare ,“Evercare Study of Caregivers in Decline” http://www.caregiving.org/