An estimated five million Americans spend some time caring for an aging parent, a figure that's expected to double within the next 20 years. Whether it's cooking, cleaning or driving, the physical and emotional demands can be overwhelming.
In addition to the physical strain they experience a wide range of emotions. But even though caring for an elderly person can be a stressful experience, it can also be a rewarding one for the caregiver.
Up until four years ago, Sue Baird drove herself and was extremely independent.
This past spring her health took a turn for the worse and she depends on her two nearby daughters more than ever.
"It’s physically tiring. Sometimes you are just so tired you don't feel like you can go, but you have to, and you do.
Ann Rose Richards of Franklin is referring to the strength she and her sister, Sue King, muster to care for their 96-year-old mother.
"It's like having a small child in one way. The responsibility you feel you want to keep tab and be sure everything is going like you want it to.
The sisters say they are glad for the opportunity to pay their mother back for all she's done for them, but that doesn't mean it’s not sometimes emotionally overwhelming.
"You have to keep your sense of humor and you have to vent your emotions. That’s important and I have cried a lot and it helps. I’ve also laughed a lot.
Both Ann Rose and Sue have husbands and friends they say incredibly understand.
But it's having each other that have helped them the most.
"We've talked about how terrible it would be to be an only child and I almost was...both of us are congenial ...it works real well.
Like most caregivers in the U.S. Ann Rose and Sue share responsibilities like fixing meals, paying bills and taking their mother to the doctor and other places she needs to go.
It also leaves them with limited time for their own life.
"At times I felt I was in a vacuum because I have lost contact with friends especially over the last few months but that’s ok. There will be a day we can do it then hopefully.”
But for these "days”, Sue Baird knows she is lucky to have her daughters close by her side and they are all grateful for their time together. "I don't know what I'd do without them; many times I didn't know what to do without them.”
Sue and Ann Rose hope they can oversee their mother's care in her own home for as long as possible.
For those who find themselves in a similar stressful situation, there is a caregiver's bill of rights. The bill of rights says:
You have the right to take care of yourself
You have the right to seek help from others
You should take pride in what you're accomplishing and to protect your individuality.
Tomorrow night we'll take a look at support systems that are available to caregivers, and have other tips on getting through the difficult time.