Tips on Caring for Aging Parents
For millions of baby boomers, planning their own retirement has taken a backseat to helping their aging parents navigate the golden years. Often referred to as the sandwich generation, this group is tasked with caring for seniors while tending to growing children.
A general lack of preparedness coupled with fears ranging from isolation and loneliness to neglect and “who’s going to pay for this?” have left many trying to shoulder the burden on their own.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, 4.4 million homes had three generations or more living under one roof — a 15 percent increase from 2008. That number is continuing to grow, says Marion Somers, who has spent the past four decades as a geriatric care manager and is currently on a cross-country tour educating Americans about the importance of planning ahead for long term care.
While nursing homes and assisted living facilities can offer round-the-clock care for elders and take a bit of pressure off already-harried boomers, neither is cheap nor, for some, all that desirable.
Home Is Where the Heart Is
There’s no place like home for the senior set, according to an AARP survey. Ninety percent of people over age 65 said they want to stay in their home as long as possible — a figure that has remained constant for the last four years.
Making that wish come true can be complicated and costly, but with a growing number of in-home care providers and new technological advancements, more options are available than in past generations.
Paul Hogan founded Home Instead Senior Care in 1994. With more than 900 offices offering nonmedical senior care and companionship services, Hogan says one of the biggest obstacles caregivers face is lack of awareness of the in-home services that exist.
“When we started in the early 1990s there were two options: It was going to be the nursing home or my daughter’s home,” Hogan says. “Now there’s a whole proliferation of options that have evolved over the last 20 years, and very few people know what they are and how much they cost.”
Hogan says families faced with the challenge of making a decision, often under pressure, have a tendency to underestimate the expense of nursing homes and overestimate the cost of in-home care, often by as much as 30 percent, leading them to make poor choices or not recognize the affordability of nonmedical at-home care.
Somers advises caregivers to do their homework carefully when considering the gamut of options. She points out that aides can cost as little as $10 an hour in some parts of the country and as much as $27 an hour in other areas.
“What if you need a nurse to administer insulin shots?” she asks. “That can range anywhere from $75 to $175 depending on where you live.”
A Genworth 2012 Cost of Care Survey reveals private or semi-private rooms in a nursing home average upwards of $200 per day nationally, or approximately $6,000 per month, while the average assisted living facility commands $3,300 per month. Those in the market for in-home nonmedical care can expect to pay close to $19 per hour on average nationally.
Jeff Bevis, who is chief executive officer of FirstLight Home Careand is also caring for his 88-year-old father-in-law, says the need for in-home nonmedical care is “skyrocketing” quarter after quarter.
“There’s a major level of desire and interest among seniors to remain in their own home no matter what,” he says.
Bevis pegs the in-home nonmedical care business as a $70 billion industry and one that is likely to triple over the next several decades as the senior population explodes.
The number of people age 65 and older will more than double between 2010 and 2050 to 88.5 million or 20 percent of the population; likewise, those 85 and older will rise three-fold, to 19 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Bevis explains that modern technology can help create a middle ground offering a cost-effective solution that allows seniors to maintain their independence and dignity while still staying safe in the comfort of their own homes.
'Granny Pods' and More
Web portals that enable the client, family members and the caregiver to go in and see notes on services or care provided that day are one option. Bevis also touts the importance of personal emergency response systems that not only provide peace of mind knowing help is available in a crisis but can also relay vital signs wirelessly to a doctor’s office.