Mary-Ellen has been caring for her aging mother for five years now. She spends 3 hours a day tending to mom’s needs. She helps mother with every activity from feeding to bathing to toileting to cleaning the house and doing laundry, on top of her responsibilities for her family of four.
“Every day I feel torn. Do I check in on mom or see my son’s basketball game?” she laments. “I constantly experience feelings of guilt and inadequacy. I know I can’t do it all every day, but I’m expected to try. I’m always left wondering if I made the right decision.”
Mary-Ellen is one of the millions of Americans who juggle the needs of an aging loved one and those of his or her own family each day. On average, family caregivers provide 20 hours of work weekly to aging relatives. Those 20 hours are taken from time that could be spent tending to their careers, families and themselves.
Initially, the time a relative devotes to caring for an aging loved one is seen as a labor of love. Eventually these family caregivers can lose their sense of self and get caught in a role that’s somewhere between child, caregiver and parent. They find themselves experiencing the Caregiving Dilemma—a situation where caregiving becomes a juggling act in which the caregiver suffers, family relationships deteriorate, and the care recipient no longer feels loved and supported.
Home Helpers Care-Coordinator Pamela witnesses this struggle every day. “Often clients come to us at the breaking point,” says Pam. “But the sooner people come to us, the sooner we can help and avoid getting to that point.”
An astounding 76 million people, or about a quarter of the U.S. population, are Baby Boomers. In the next 15 years, more than 1 in 5 Americans will be over the age of 65. While Boomers’ increasing medical and financial needs receive appropriate and important attention, what is usually missed is the effect this will have on families. How will we provide the care our aging loved ones require, when most of us are already swamped with the demands of a career and taking care of our own children?
“In order to meet this challenge, Americans require a stronger support system, and be willing to accept help,” advises Emma Dickison, president of Home Helpers. “Conversations about aging need to happen sooner. Many of us have an idea of what will happen when Mom or Dad starts to need more help at home, but how many of us have actually talked to them about it?”
Mary-Ellen now sees that had she been more prepared for her aging mother’s needs, she could have avoided this predicament. “It all snuck up on me. I didn’t realize what was happening.”
A number of care options are available in the community. “Have conversations with your loved ones,” says Dickison. “Then, when the time comes, everyone will be prepared and know what to do.”
Home Helpers offers in-home senior care services to aid families in more than 600 communities across the country. For more information on the Care Options in the Community contact Pamela at Home Helpers & Direct Link of Wilmington, 302-746-7844, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.homehelpershomecare.com/wilmington.
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