The Coming Caregiver Crisis

Caregiver CrisisOne third of the families in the United States provide long term care for a disabled or elderly family member. Two thirds of these caregivers are women. And one half of them are working.

These family caregiver are critical for the elderly to remain in their homes  when disability strikes. More than two- thirds (68 percent) of Americans believe that they will be able to rely on their loved ones to meet their long term care needs when they require help, but this belief may collide with the reality of dramatically shrinking availability of family caregivers.

According to an AARP study, in 2010, the caregiver support ratio was more than 7 potential caregivers for every person in the high-risk years of 80-plus.

By 2030, the ratio is projected to decline sharply to 4 to 1; and it is expected to further fall to less than 3 to 1 in 2050, when all boomers will be in the high-risk years of late life.

If fewer family members are available to provide everyday assistance to the growing numbers of frail older people, more people are likely to need institutional care—at great personal cost—as well as costs to health care programs. Greater reliance on fewer family caregivers to provide home- and community-based services could also add to costs borne by family members and close friends—in the form of increasing emotional and physical strain, competing demands of work and caregiving, and financial hardships.

The decades of the 2010s and 2020s will be a period of transition, as boomers age out of the peak caregiving years and the oldest boomers age into the 80-plus high-risk years.

The departure of the boomers from the peak caregiving years will mean that the population aged 45–64 is projected to increase by only 1 percent between 2010 and 2030. During the same period, the 80-plus population is projected to increase by a whopping 79 percent.

It is critical that families begin the conversation now to create a long term care plan for elderly family members. Do not wait for it to become an immediate crisis. The family must have a serious meeting to answer the following three questions.

  1. If mom or dad becomes incapacitated, where will they live?
  2. Who will take care of mom or dad if they need custodial care? 
  3. How will they pay for this care?

The answers to these questions will form the basis for a long term care plan. If family members disagree regarding the answers to these questions, compromises must be made. The entire family must come to a consensus that everyone can live with or risk the disintegration of the family.

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Caring for your elderly parents, are you doing it?

Dad and StephIt’s a fairly universal assumption that at some point we’re going to have to think about how to look after our parents when they get to an age when they’re less independent than they want to be. When that time comes, we have to consider the options against the time we have available to give them and the cost implications of an increase in service or utilities. Here are some of the ways we can make sure we’re all doing the best we can for our family and other elderly people we know.

Time

Giving your time to your elderly family is priceless when trying to make sure they get the best life possible. In the not-so-distant past, and in many other cultures, it’s expected that elderly men and women would live with their children or younger relatives when they are no longer capable of living independently. This is fantastic for keeping a family together, but it’s simply impossible for some young families to dedicate that much time if they are both working and have lots of commitments- consider that, when this was popular in the past, it was generally accepted that women would stay at home while men worked- alternatives must be used, even if they don’t necessarily want to use them.

Money

If the financial responsibility may fall on the younger members of the family and if that’s the case then private carers and expensive retirement homes may not be feasible. If this is an issue for you then check what kind of organizations are offering the retirement homes to give you a clue on what price and quality of services they will provide. Some charitable trusts offer residential ‘communities’ that focus on building an active and friendly environment for the elderly, and have the charitable status to back them up. These offer fairly reasonable prices and ensure that time and attention will be given where it’s needed, which is great if the problem is a lack of ability to spend time with the older family.

What sorts of things are available in retirement communities?

As these retirement villages are focused on activities and building communities, there is generally a lot to do in them. More conventional things like book clubs are obvious, but there are also more contemporary activities such as tai chi, and if people aren’t quite up to speed with IT skills like email and Microsoft Office programs, there are plenty of classes to help there too.

Make sure they’re happy about where they’re going

Everyone is aware of the negative connotations surrounding some of the more dingy retirement homes, so your elderly family will obviously be included in that. Retirement villages, especially when run by charities dispel those worries, by having an already bustling community that people can see and reference to, meaning that if you really can’t afford the time or money to have your family at home with you, they are by far the best options available.