Marjorie recently lost her father after years of watching his health deteriorate. Like many girls growing up, her dad was her hero and a man she felt could do everything. As the years passed she watched her dad become a frail, weak, and frightened old man, refusing to cooperate. Dad insisted that Mom could take care of him by herself, and Mom, not wanting to argue, tried the best she could. As Marjorie watched her dad continue to refuse rehabilitation and rely more and more on the medicines, she also watched her mom cater to his growing needs; to try to feed his decreasing appetite; to shower him and to get up with him in the middle of the night. Marjorie’s mom was exhausted, often getting less than two hours of sleep at a time, getting out only to go to the market. Marjorie tried to talk about getting additional help. Being modest and private, her dad refused help from his grown children and was reluctant to hire outside help. Even Marjorie was only allowed so much into their private life, coming in once a week to clean what her mom could not and driving them to stores and doctors.
When her dad started falling, she drove the 20 miles or so in the middle of the night to help her mom lift him back up. Being middle aged herself, she had trouble helping lift her dad off the floor. He was totally incapable of assisting at all. They spoke more of getting help from professionals, but could never decide what exactly they needed and whether they were covered or could afford it out of pocket. Unfortunately Marjorie’s father passed from a stroke before it could be decided.
It’s hard to know when to discuss elder care with your family. Caregiver.org advises,
- If you are a caregiving spouse between the ages of 66 and 96 and are experiencing mental or emotional strain, you have a risk of dying that is 63 percent higher than that of people your age who are not caregivers.1 The combination of loss, prolonged stress, the physical demands of caregiving, and the biological vulnerabilities that come with age place you at risk for significant health problems as well as an earlier death.
- Older caregivers are not the only ones who put their health and well-being at risk. If you are a baby boomer who has assumed a caregiver role for your parents while simultaneously juggling work and raising adolescent children, you face an increased risk for depression, chronic illness and a possible decline in quality of life.
Each year hundreds of spouses/partners put their own health at risk in the daily struggle to care for another. Among some of these risks are heart attacks, throwing their back out, or collapsing from exhaustion. According to Aging Care.com, “by far, the most prevalent injuries among caregivers are those that involve the back, neck and shoulder joints.”
As Marjorie tried to explain to her mom, “You can’t take care of Dad if you don’t take care of yourself.” But of course that is easier said than done.
Home care has expounded in leaps and bounds, changing drastically over the past few years to meet the growing number of elders. Many prefer to stay at home, not only for personal care but because of the rising costs of nursing homes.
According to US News, “There are just over 40 million Americans age 65 and older, and they make up 13 percent of the population. By 2030, when all the baby boomers will have passed age 65, the over-65 crowd will reach 20 percent of the population. At that time the median age of Americans will increase to 39.6 years, up from 37.2 today and a significant increase from a little under 30 in the 1960s and ’70s.”
There is a plethora of home care choices. Whether one chooses to stay in the home they have known for years; relocate to a smaller place, or choose an assisted living center, there is a professional capable of filling your needs. Many insurance plans cover the costs of in home care and the care can vary from assistance with medications to housework, bathing and cooking meals for the patient. A good agency can help you decide what is best for you. Persistence is the key if you are watching someone suffer in order to take care of someone else, all the while trying not to complain.
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