Thank heaven for parent caregivers!
An increasing number of American adults and their families serve as unpaid caregivers for their loved ones because of a condition relating to aging parents, relatives and friends who are frail, disabled or suffering from a chronic condition.
The need for family care will escalate significantly in the coming decades and along with it many more challenges. Among those:
• Less Children Per Family: Fewer children are available today to provide care to parents. Birthrates have declined over the years. Today’s older adults average four children per couple, while the Boomer parenting generation has averaged only two children per couple.
• Long-Distance Caregiving: Compared to previous generations who tended to live in close proximity, family members don’t necessarily live near their parents. They are separated physically because of a number of trends -- increased mobility of households, relocations through job transfers, loss of job or changing careers. Remote caregiving, as its often called, is an issue that affects families in a very personal way.
• Single-Person Households: Among people age 65 and older, 47 percent of women and 18 percent of men now live alone, according to U.S. Census data. Distinctions are drawn between those who have never married, “Ever Singles,” and those who have experienced divorce or death of a spouse, “Suddenly Singles.” This trend also affects both parents and their family caregivers.
• The Surge in Boomer Divorce: Today, one in four divorces occurs with people over 50, a fact that is significantly higher than it was 10 years ago. Widowhood is another factor that affects relationships with caregiving families. One in three households headed by someone over age 50 is headed by widows. In longevity terms, women outlive men by more than five years.
• Full- or Part-Time Work: Another issue relates to adults who are working full- or part-time. The U.S. is experiencing the highest rates ever of both middle-aged men and women working, many well into their 60s, 70s or 80s. The adult daughter or son caring for mom or dad might need or wish to work. Two-income households with both working are on the rise.
• The Effect on Jobs and Careers: For a number of reasons, caregiving for an older parent while working is usually not easy and often can affect job performance in many ways. Juggling work, dealing with workplace challenges, monitoring the care while maintaining continuity on the job are all part of elder caregiving for jobholders which health care providers need to acknowledge and offer assistance.
• Aging in Place: Upwards of 90 percent of seniors have a stated preference to live at home or what is called “aging in place” – remaining at home for as long as possible. For Boomers and senior older adults, most want to live as independently as possible while receiving the care they need to be safe and comfortable and maintain a high quality of life. Currently, there are an estimated 66 million family caregivers who provide care in-home for a loved one.
The challenges are many and growing!