The American Association of Retired Persons says nearly 34 million families in the U.S. are caring for someone over the age of 50. For the vast majority the care is given at home.
Meeting the needs of an elderly person while caring for their own families can result in a very stressful life. It's called the "Sandwich Generation"...and it affects a sizable population.
It has been estimated that the average American woman will need to devote about 18 years of some type of care for her elders. If you are not currently caring for an aging family member, chances are you will at some time during your life and as those who've done it will tell you that you never know what to expect.
“That is one of the most nerve wracking parts of being a caregiver. We think, oh goodness, what's gonna happen next? What will I do if this happens?”
Julie Pride has worked with hospice of Southern Kentucky for the past 11 years. She says hospice volunteers are a key source of support for caregivers whose lives can seem out of control.
"You see family members that put their lives on hold and most are so glad to do it...but its exhausting.”
Sue King and Ann Rose Richards can relate. Although they have some help, the two sisters still check on their 96-year-old mother multiple times a day. They take a team approach to her care giving, but ultimately her well-being is always on their mind.
"Even if you go away for a day or two you can't let your guard down...cause your always thinking what's happening here?”
There are options for the elderly who are not quite able to live alone yet not sick enough for nursing home care. There's assisted living, nursing homes and continuing care retirement communities.
Here are some key questions to ask service providers:
*Is the agency licensed by the state?
*Are there other family caregivers who are willing to serve as references for the care facility?
*What is the range of services provided?
*When can family members visit and observe procedures in the care facility?
*What do the services cost?
*Will Medicare or other health insurance pay for the services?
*When and where are the services provided?
*What are the qualifications of the agency's employees?
*How are family members kept informed?
If you choose to bring someone in to help with care giving on your own, pride suggests screening the applicant the same way agencies would with background checks, interviews, references and even drug screening.
And she says planning ahead and family communication is crucial in care giving.
"Even in the home...have a regular meeting of all the people involved and say this is your responsibility, lay it out so there are no questions.”
Whether the aging parent is at home or in a facility caregivers like Sue and Ann Rose say the person’s happiness and well-being is the most important thing.
"We hope we can stay right where we are and that mother can be happy here.”
One of the other major concerns of the caregiver is the financial burden that can be involved. Hospice can be reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid, as well as most private health insurance plans. The cost and insurance requirements of other facilities vary. The level of care your loved one needs will help determine what sort of facility would suit them best.
Assisted living facilities are available for those who need some help. Nursing homes offer skilled nursing care and continuing care retirement communities offer a range from independent living to assisted to full time care. To find out if a facility is right for you, providers suggest making an unannounced visit.