Challenges Baby Boomers Face When Choosing Senior Care
As baby boomers get older, many of us are faced with the reality of watching our parents get even older still. For the first time in history, the average life expectancy in the U.S. has risen to 78.1 and a daily check of the obituaries reveals a good many people who make it to their late 80s and early 90s and older.
Watching our parents age is never easy. Switching roles and becoming their caregiver or “parent” is even harder. Better health care and improved medications have helped to increase the average life span — and some of these older folks are still quite healthy and active. Unfortunately, the older they live the greater the chance that physical limitations or dementia will force them to make a lifestyle change they don’t want.
It’s hard for baby boomers to face the fact that their parents can’t do what they used to do. It’s even more of a challenge when the parents maintain that they can. Adult children need to have a frank talk with their parents – and each other – to determine what, if anything, needs to be done. Can they stay at home with daily help? Do they need meals brought in or someone to stay overnight? There are many home care agencies these days that will visit daily and help with everything from bathing and dressing to physical therapy to companionship.
Finding the right solution can be complicated when parents live in one city and the children are hours away. If you do live nearby, it’s a good idea to get a list of possible living arrangements and make phone calls, look at websites, and speak to people who currently live there. Or receive their care. Retirement communities and assisted living facilities generally have someone on staff that would assess the prospective residents to see if that facility is a good fit. An elderly senior in need of memory care will require a far different living situation than an active 75-year-old who broke a hip and can no longer handle the cleaning and lawn care.
If you do live nearby, you may find that a lot of your time is spent taking parents to doctor appointments, grocery shopping or paying bills. This can be stressful on baby boomers that are used to their parents being capable and independent. If none of the children live nearby, there is often the guilt of not being there to help and the stress of finding someone reliable who can help out.
Family conflict is often another challenge for today’s sandwich generation. Sometimes siblings don’t agree about their parents’ care or how to spend their money. Sometimes the conflict is with the parents themselves when adult children (or the parents’ friends, neighbors or other relatives) notice that there are signs of dementia but the parent is in denial. It’s hard to make a decision based on what you know is best for them, when they are frightened, confused or angry about your choice.
Moving parents closer to you is an option that resolves some concerns but can be the cause of other stressors. Making living arrangements, finding a doctor and health insurance are all part of these life changes.
Local senior centers, government agencies, eldercare specialists, geriatric physicians, and of course, LivingSenior articles are all good sources of information for baby boomers and their parents who are facing these issues.