Many employees today are calling in sick - not to care for themselves or their children, but to care for their aging parents. Baby boomers are rapidly moving into the role of caregivers for their parents, but with a few extra challenges due to the changing face of our workforce. Nearly 25% of U.S. households are now involved in caring for a senior family member, spending an average of 20 hours a week in caregiving services. Nearly 65% of those individuals providing the caregiving are employed outside of the home. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, approximately 15 million days of work per year are lost due to these circumstances. These numbers are forecasted to increase since the longevity of life is being extended by modern medicine.
The workforce is also aging with more people moving toward retirement age and fewer young people filling the ranks. The median age of workers has risen by five years since 1986, making the average worker 40 years old. Women in this age group, who are primarily the caregivers for their parents, continue working full time in order to support their family, pay their children's college tuition, or save for their own retirement. These situations are even more compounded because many baby boomers have relocated away from their senior family members to pursue job opportunities.
Another issue facing baby boomers and their families is the cost of care for their senior family members. Many members of the sandwich generation will be shocked to find out what the cost of prescription medications really run, especially since many of the medications are not covered by Medicare. This will cause many retired seniors and some baby boomers to continue their pursuit of a career, and not enjoy their Golden Years.
When faced with these issues, it is always best to have some future plan in place. Do not wait until mom or dad is in the critical care bed or is being discharged from the hospital. Here are a few suggestions for the potential or current caregiver to contemplate:
1. Talk to your parents and/or family members before a crisis. This will help you and all those involved to truly understand their wishes. Discuss with them the topics of Medicare, health insurance, long-term care insurance, and if they have other important legal documents regarding medical treatment (i.e., Living Will, Durable Medical Power of Attorney, etc?).
2. Locate any community resources that may be available to you and your family. The Valley of the Sun has numerous services available for the elderly (i.e. Area Agency on Aging, Meals on Wheels, Adult Day Care Facilities, Housing, etc?). You can access many of these services via the local hospital or skilled nursing facility discharge planners, senior citizen centers, or even the local clergy.
3. Ask your employer if they can help. Many employers are willing to help employee caregivers in order to retain valuable workers. Find out if your employer offers paid leave benefits for flex hours. Some employees are even beginning to include long-term care insurance or caregiver respite programs in their benefit package.
4. Ask friends and family for help. Ask them what experiences they have had with some of the community services. Many of these people may have already gone through this and can be of assistance.
5. Talk to your local clergy. Many local churches and synagogues have family assistance programs or have access via their denominations. If these services are not available, most clergy are familiar with what can be obtained by you or your family.
Caring for our aging parents may be one of the more challenging roles we undertake in our adult lives. With forethought, consideration and a little planning on everyone's part, it can actually have a more positive outcome.
Hearts of Joy Senior Care provides an affordable, non-medical, in-home companion care service for seniors, which enables them to maintain their independence, as well as dignity and self-respect. Marc and Susan speak around the valley on numerous topics regarding senior care, with a primary focus on fall prevention and home safety. Hearts of Joy Senior Care Inc. can be reached at (480) 948-4655.