Caregiving for Elderly Parents, With a Twist

Jul 24th, 2011 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Senior Finances

A new study by the AARP recently confirmed what many of us senior citizens already know: There are 40 million of us family members in the United States who care for elderly or disabled parents and loved ones, and the value of our work equals $450 billion a year.

We need more help, not less.  Budget cuts in all 50  states, as well as the threatened cuts in the federal budget, would place more of us in a precarious situation. Many of us seniors are still working and caring for our elderly loved ones.  The AARP study found family members spend an average of 20 hours a week providing care without compensation; we do it because we love our elderly family.  Thanks to modern medicine, chronic conditions can now be managed, thus extending the life of the victim of the illness.  But that also places another demand on family caregivers.  Some of the care-giving required can get complicated and most of us don’t have medically-related training to adequately provide the care.  In addition, the financial cost to us can threaten our own future.

SCJ found an invaluable resource on the AARP website that we want to make available to our readers.  AARP and the National Family Caregivers Association provide a lot of tips and resources, and the MetLife Mature Market Institute offers a list of financial considerations.

Here are a few tips that might be helpful:

  1. Think twice about leaving your job, cautions the MetLife Mature Market Institute. Though it’s tough to juggle a job and care-giving, those who cut back work can jeopardize their own retirement.
  2. Look for an employer with family friendly policies, suggests AARP, such as flextime, telecommuting or backup in-home care in an emergency.
  3. Reward yourself with respite breaks often, advises the National Family Caregivers Association.

On the horizon are some new solutions for those of us who carry the financial burden of care-giving; those of us who feel emotionally stretched, socially isolated and experience physical illness and disease of our own that is probably related to being overwhelmed as caregivers.  The solutions include

  • In mid-July, 2011, the Obama administration joined labor groups calling for the creation of two million more jobs in home health care, and proposed a new visa for immigrants willing to enter the field.
  • Internet programs such as ListServ provide opportunity for notices to be posted about services/products needed in a neighborhood or community.  People respond to the postings and offer much-needed assistance at very little or no cost.
  • Find ways to match needs with volunteers, to create a community of volunteers; there are generous souls in every community who are willing to help out; they just need to have the information.

Perhaps the new twist in care-giving can be found in an old idea, one that has been employed for centuries around the globe.  Perhaps we can create a community of caregivers, who are available to help each other and to help those who are no longer able to take care of themselves.  Perhaps, just perhaps, the solutions lies in our neighborhoods and our communities.



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