As the elderly become more feeble, the not-so-young-themselves boomer generation is called in to help

Ready or not those boomers are going to be making some tough decisions.

Barbara Barb Bowes Transitions
Barbara Bowes
Transitions

I understand the elderly population is growing at a rate that’s double that of the general population. The fastest growing age range is the 60 to 64 age group, but there has also been a substantial increase of individuals in the “old-old” age range of 85 years and older. Researchers predict that population aging will accelerate in the years to come and that more and more baby boomers will be involved in providing homecare to a family member.

A number of challenges face baby boomers with respect to caring for aging parents. First of all, life isn’t like it was in days gone by when most families lived close to each other. Today, families are spread not just across Canada but across the world. Trying to direct and oversee elder care from a distance can be quite traumatic.

Few make homecare plans

As well, a 2011 national Canadian survey found that less than 20 per cent of respondents had worked with their parents to develop a plan for ongoing personal care. That means over 80 per cent of people are not speaking to their parents about what to do at that point in their life when the tough decisions need to be made.

I found myself in this situation. My mother was of sound mind right to the end and relinquished control less than a week prior to her passing. This certainly created some stress, as my family scrambled to review documents only to find that her will was so outdated it didn’t meet any of today’s standards. A new will was finally drawn up just three days before she died. Her handwriting was barely legible.

The same 2011 survey indicated that people who provide care to an aging parent experienced an impact to their mental and physical health, their personal well being and their professional life. Caring for an aging parent is a major social and personal issue that requires time, patience and a commitment. In my case, I was often full of worry, even more so when my mother stopped answering the phone. Believe me, not knowing if a parent is safe or not is certainly stressful.

Some people refer to their new uncharted journey into elder care as “parenting the parents”. The situation certainly creates a sea of conflicting emotions. At least someone in the family will experience a strong sense of responsibility, and one person will typically take the lead in shepherding their parent through elder care. It is common to feel both fear and guilt at the same time.

On the other hand, some elderly parents become more controlling and more demanding. They seem to be insensitive to the efforts their children are making, which makes it harder for everyone. I consider myself lucky. My mother bore her illness well, rarely if ever complained and always put a strong happy face on for her family.

In addition, my mother spent about five years slowly getting her home in order for the time she would know a move was inevitable. She packaged up various items that she wished to return to each of her children and slowly got rid of items she had collected for years. When it was time to sell the house and move to smaller quarters, her children had little work to do.

Not only that, her physician kept regular contact with the family and was helpful in providing support and making suggestions.

Sandwich group gets bigger

parenting-your-parent-bookLet’s face it. The year 2014 will see more and more baby boomers become part of the so-called “sandwich generation”, as well as being seniors themselves. There is no need, though, to fumble through this journey because there are so many resources available today that can provide advice and guidance.

One such valuable resource book is called, Parenting your Parents, Straight Talk about Aging in the Family. Written by two Canadians, an elder-care advocate and a professor of geriatrics, the book presents over 24 case studies and personal experiences that helps the reader realize they are not alone.

The book is an easy read. It discusses elder travel, guilt trips, culture clashes, substance abuse and sibling rivalry. It shares experiences related to the challenges of a stroke and dementia and depression. For those unfamiliar with the Canada’s system of health care for the elderly, the book explains how to navigate that system, determine when love and the law conflict and how to care and share at the end-of-life stage.

Help is not far away

The Internet provides another valuable resource. One website, the www.sandwichgeneration.com offers articles and tips that can be downloaded for review.

You are not alone. Today, there are numerous social groups, service agencies, books and alternative internet resources that can help remove the pain and instead bring joy and inspiration to your elder care relationships.

Barbara J. Bowes is president of Legacy Bowes Group, an author, radio host, professional speaker and newspaper columnist. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com.

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