Aging Parents

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Someone to Watch Over You

How long do you want to live? Before you give an answer to that question, think long and hard about the ramifications of living to a “ripe old age”. Do you want to live to be one hundred if you develop Alzheimer’s disease at seventy? Do you want to spend years facing depression and loss of self-esteem? And there is perhaps the most important question: Who will take care of you? These are some of the issues facing today's rapidly growing elderly population.

In the United States, our parents are living longer. With this increased longevity has come the dilemma of providing the best care for them in their later years. It has become a burning issue in the lives of today’s middle-aged adults; what to do when your parents are no longer capable of managing their own affairs. Many of today’s elderly are forced to move in with their adult children. If they remain healthy in their later years, they are able to stay in their own homes, either with part-time or live-in assistance. Others are not so fortunate, and must be moved into nursing homes for the remainder of their lives. Their numbers are growing, and unfortunately, the need for quality care and housing for our elderly population is not keeping up the pace. “The age wave is mounting: 83 million Americans, an unprecedented 13% of the population, are over 65. Their ranks will more than double by 2030. The number of Americans 85 and older has nearly tripled since 1960, to 4 million, and will more than double over the next 30 years. Along with that explosion has come a growing, and often confusing, array of living and caring options” (Booth).

The middle-aged adult population now has the responsibility of taking care of their parents, and with it comes the uncertainty of how best to do this. As the decision-maker, you have to make choices that will not only affect your parents’ lives, but yours as well. Your parent may not be thinking clearly due to either side effects of certain medications or due to compromised memory problems. They may feel great resentment at being uprooted from a home where they spent most of their life. You have to provide a delicate balance of caring for your parent while letting him/her maintain as much self-esteem and independence as possible. This is difficult to do while trying to manage your own life, keeping up with the needs of your spouse and, in most cases, your children. If a parent needs constant care due to failing health, it becomes a near-impossible task. And as much as we may want to care for our own parent, there may come a time when we have to relinquish our involvement in their physical care to a more qualified individual/institution. “When we come face-to-face with our own limits and can’t provide the care we wish we could, we feel it’s our own fault” (Loverde 31). No matter what we choose to do in the best interest of our parent, it never seems to be enough. There are, more often than not, feelings of guilt and frustration that follow each decision.

Having a parent come and live with you seems to be the choice of most middle-aged adults. While this may appear to be the best choice, it poses many of its own difficulties. The primary care giver of elderly parents in today’s society is the woman. “According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), about 72 percent of caregivers to elders are women. More than half of these women work outside the home, and 41 percent of them also care for children” (Cigna). She becomes responsible not only for her parent, but must also maintain a balanced relationship with her husband and her children. The focus of her attention shifts away from them, oftentimes causing tremendous stress and resentment on their part. She has become part of the “sandwich generation”, a term used to describe someone caring for more than one generation in her household. If her spouse or child(ren) falls ill, the adult caregiver cannot devote...
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