Starting the Dialogue with Your Aging Parents: Who’s Caring?
Those of you who follow this blog regularly know that I promote frequent, honest, and productive interchange between the generations. This is encouraged whether you are a member of the baby boom generation, a Gen Xer, from Gen Y or the aging parent. Dialogue and open communication are important aspects of a happy and fulfilling life regardless of age.
Let’s start today by communicating our gratitude to those veterans who fought for our freedoms and for the safety of this great country. Whether you agree with war, or not, has no bearing on the issue of gratitude being expressed to those who risked their lives when their country asked it of them. There are very few, if any, World War I veterans still around to thank. Those who fought in World War II are at the end of their lives and won’t be here much longer to be acknowledged. Those who were part of the Korean War or who participated in Vietnam are in middle to late age. Those who returned from Desert Storm or any of the more recent conflicts, including those serving on peace keeping missions as part of the military also deserve our thanks. They serve and we owe them our gratitude. Thank you veterans. May you always be honored and remembered every day, not just on Veteran’s Day!
Gratitude is a frequent theme discussed in November as part of recognition of Thanksgiving. Let us always be mindful of the things we have to be grateful for and those who have provided us with the opportunity to learn and grow. Our parents should hold a place at the top of the list given that without them we would have no existence here on this planet. The best way to show your gratitude is to tell your parents how much you appreciate them.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, acknowledgement and recognition of one’s accomplishments is a basic need in the latter stages of life. Your parents need to have a sense of validation for the lives they’ve lived. Whether you are their caregiver or not this is something I strongly encourage you to do. I also encourage you to engage in this gratitude whether your parents are young, at heart or in years, and whether you live within close proximity or not. Gift them with recognition for the life you have.
Now for the meat of today’s post. In a recent article in an AARP publication a number of statistics were quoted about the availability of caregivers today. The numbers stated that for every person over 80 years old right now there were 7 potential caregivers. In twenty years that number is expected to decline to 4 potential caregivers (maybe that’s about the time you will be needing care?) and in thirty years the number declines to approximately 3 potential caregivers.
Those are pretty powerful numbers and should get you to thinking because your needs will fall somewhere along that continuum. Note that the words “potential caregivers” mean those who are family members, others paid for by insurance, those who may be paid privately, and volunteers who are unpaid.
There are multiple reasons for the decline in the number of available and potential caregivers. Some of it is due to the baby boom generation (the current caregivers) being the biggest cohort of a specific age group in recorded history. In addition there are factors related to the overall health of the nation. We have more people who are obese and dealing with earlier debilitating diseases than in previous generations. This means they will not be able to provide care for the aging populations and they may need it earlier in their own lives as well.
This should strike anyone heading into, or already in, middle age to stop and think about how to meet this challenge. One good way is to remain open with your own children about your expectations from them as you age. Another way is to set a good example by providing good communication and care for your own aging parents. Beyond that, engage your children and grandchildren in the caregiving process so they are familiar with it and accept it as the norm rather than the exception.
Who will provide the caregiving is just one area of consideration when thinking about our aging parents or our aging selves. Engaging in dialogue surrounding the topic will help you as individuals, and communities as a whole, find solutions to the challenges ahead.
Any ideas or comments? All are welcome to share in the comment section. I look forward to hearing from you!