Today more than ever, when aging in place has become a popular trend for America’s elderly, the burden of elder care has fallen on the shoulders of family members. Older people want to live out their years in the comforts of home in place of a residential facility, and if their health allows it, they can. However, children or other relatives often get involved to help, and it can sometimes become almost a full-time job. As this trend increases, respite care will have to take on greater significance and incidence as well.
Trends in aging
For several reasons, more seniors today are choosing to stay at home. This might be because they want to keep the familiar comforts of home, and their health isn’t failing. Or it might be because the cost of moving into a residential facility – which could hover around $50,000 a year – is too steep. If someone’s mental capabilities are at full capacity, which is often the case, she might be reluctant to give up her home, friends and family to move elsewhere, even if her physical health is on the decline. In some cases it also might mean giving up some form of independence, which the senior might not want.
What it means for the family
While children may support their parent’s decision to stay at home and may prefer it to having them move into their own homes, it often still requires a lot of time and effort on their part. A Boston College study found that at any time, 6% of children are caring for their parents, and 17% of children act as caregivers for their parents at some point. While these parents usually function normally, there is usually at least some ADLs (activities for daily living) that they need help with. When the need is minimal, instead of hiring a caregiver, the parent will rely on a child or other family member for a bit of extra support. Most startling, children who are involved in caregiving devote a whopping seventy-seven hours of care monthly to their parents on average. That’s almost ten full working days, or a week and a half of a full work schedule every month. That’s usually on top of their own full work schedule, and in addition any other personal obligations or down time.
This can take a huge toll on the caregiver. Financially, he may have to miss work days. Personally, he may suffer his own emotional or health losses. And this trend is only increasing.
The need for respite care
The Boston College study anticipates that this trend will continue to grow, and children will have greater responsibilities toward ailing parents. As children give more, they will require some form of respite care.
Recently, the National Association of Home Care and Hospice (NAHC) signed a letter to Congress requesting them to invest in programs for respite care. Along with other health-based organizations, they were seeking $5 million to cover respite care costs. The initiative should save money in the long run, since respite care allows caregivers time off, thereby allowing them to continue in their roles and prevent more seniors from switching to expensive, full-time care.
At the Alameda Center, we have a top respite care program so that caregivers can take care of themselves, knowing their parents are in good hands.