Are you part of the “sandwich” generation? The US Census Bureau projects that every age group from 75 – 100+ will increase from 95% to 902% over the next 25 years! This means adults are living longer… and there will be more seniors 70+ as part of our population than ever before in our history. Considering women are waiting later and later to have children, those 40 – 55 are discovering that they’re responsible for their young children AND their elderly parents. Thus the term “sandwich” generation.
While there are lots of resources to help us raise young children, no one really prepares us for making decisions and helping manage the needs of our senior parents. There are many more options available but none of them are simple as the senior themselves as a point of view that must be taken into consideration.
In general, seniors want to stay independent as long as possible. They want to remain in their home, surrounded by their memories and personal items. While this is an ideal scenario, many adult children become concerned as to their parents’ ability to care for themselves. Thus the most popular question I get asked is “How do I determine when they are unable to care for themselves and need to make a change?”
The simple answer is “bills, pills, spills, and skills.”
Bills: Can your parents keep track of all their bills? Are they paying invoices on time? Are you confident they won’t get any of their utilities or basic services cut off because of failure to pay a bill? Often, the first phone call adult children receive is that it’s “cold in the house” and it turns out the utilities have been cut off because of multiple missed payments. If that’s the case, you need to take immediate care giving action.
Pills: While only their doctor knows the real condition of their health, many seniors don’t always share their most intimate details with their children. If your adult parent is experiencing multiple health challenges, is on a variety of medication, or is struggling to maintain the medication doses prescribed by their physician, it’s time to look at care giving options. Missing a blood pressure medication or mixing up doses of different medications, is certainly cause for alarm.
Spills: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 15,800 persons 65 years and older died from an unintentional fall and 1.8 million seniors were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for non-fatal falls in 2005. Or put another way, every hour 1.8 seniors died and every hour 205 were treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries. When your adult parent has fallen or is at risk of falling because they are unstable on their feet, you need to look seriously at your care giving options.
Skills: Can your adult parent still drive safely? Can they cook and feed themselves 3x a day with a nutritious meal? Can they get to the grocery store to purchase fresh food items? Is there expired food in their refrigerators or cupboards that they might be continuing to consume? Can they keep accurate track of appointments? If they find any of these skills challenging, you should probably look at your care giving options.
Assisted living (or Residential Care) is for adults who need help with everyday tasks. They may need help with dressing, bathing, eating, or using the bathroom, but they don’t need full-time nursing care. Some assisted living facilities are part of retirement community, or are close to a nursing home, so the senior can move easily if their needs change.
However many seniors wish to remain in their homes for as long as physically possible — and to do that safely, many seniors need some type of assistance.
When you hire a care giver, you’re hiring a professional with companionship skills — one who likes serving, supporting, and being with seniors. They’ve been specially trained to help support individuals’ needs from cooking and light housekeeping, to bathing, dressing, and running errands. It’s difficult to think that a virtual stranger could arrive in your home and immediately fit into the routine of the household, but it is possible. It’s important that the relationship is based on a foundation of trust.