As the baby Boomer population continues to age, we are faced with many choices and concerns for our own well-being. But many of us are also faced with the care of our very elderly parents. If we are not yet retired and available as a ready caregiver, we must look at options to help in that care. Caregiving of anyone is truly a noble decision. It can also be one of the hardest jobs in the world. Caregiving for an elderly parent especially one who cannot be left on his or her own can be a very exhausting task. The decisions to take on that task are not without much consternation. Many of us feel an obligation to our parents and a personal expectation to be the provider for the parent who cared for us the many years ago. But as our very elderly population lives longer and often have multiple chronic conditions, the task is complex and exhausting. In counseling families who are contemplating that task or trying to make decisions about that, one needs to have some back-up plans. For some the decision is a financial one and other types of care are not necessarily an option.
There is considerable literature on keeping the caregiver healthy. If something happens to the lone caregiver, the elder may have no other choice but institutionalization in a nursing home and that often becomes permanent. That is exceedingly expensive no matter who pays the bill and when personal funds are exhausted, the state’s Medicaid purses are often stretched beyond their limits. For this reason, culturally, we should be investing resources and energy into protecting and providing for the family caregiver to be successful. Much of the literature advises such things as taking personal time, staying social, getting rid of the guilt, eating well, getting sleep and exercise and taking breaks. One of the very best ways to be able to “take care of the caregiver” is through the option of safe and competent adult care. This offers many hours of stress free time for the caregiver and a safe and social outlet for the senior adult. If the elder person also has dementia and the accompanying safety issues, the stress is compounded even more. As a culture, we should embrace this option and make it more available and affordable. One other option is respite care where the elder can be cared for in a facility while the caregiver takes a break.