Last Modified: 23:08 PM EDT, 17 July 2012
Most of the caregivers who are between the ages of 45-64 years old are providing 75 to 80 percent of all long-term care for parents or a grandparent.
Women are twice as likely as men to be the primary caregiver, but often in economically challenged families, the parents are moved in with their adult children families.
The story which follows is humbling and thought-provoking. It is especially poignant in light of the fact that most of us live with but rarely think about aging. But denial of this inevitability does not invalidate the reality that the majority of us will one day be old.
A frail old man lived with his son, his daughter-in-law, and his four-year-old grandson. His eyes were blurry, his hands trembled, and his step faltered.
The family would eat together nightly at the dinner table. But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating rather difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon, drooping to the floor. When he grasped his glass of milk, it often spilled clumsily at the tablecloth.
With this happening almost every night, the son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.
“We must do something about grandfather,” said the son.
“I’ve had enough of his milk spilling, noisy eating and food on the floor,” the daughter-in-law agreed.
So the couple set a small table at the corner.
There, grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed their dinner at the dinner table. Since grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in wooden bowls. Sometimes when the family glanced in grandfather’s direction, he had a tear in his eye as he ate alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four-year-old watched it all in silence.
One evening, before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly: “What are you making?” Just as sweetly, the boy replied, “Oh, I’m making a little bowl for you and mama to eat your food from when I grow up.” The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.
These words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Then tears streamed down their cheeks. Though no words were spoken, both knew what must be done. That evening, the husband took grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table.
For the remainder of his days, grandfather ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk was spilled or the table cloth was soiled.
- Family Caregiver Alliance. Offers tips on a wide range of topics, including how to hire help, hold a family meeting, balance work and care giving, find important papers, and decide whether parents should move in with an adult child.
- National Alliance for Caregiving. Reviews of more than 1,000 books, videos, Web sites and links.
- National Family Caregivers Association. Provides statistics, research and policy reports, tip sheets, first-person accounts, a newsletter and an exhaustive resource list.
- Family Caregiving 101. A separate “how-to” site by the NFCA with advice on time management, asking for help, navigating the health care maze and communicating with insurance companies and hospitals.
- The 2030 Problem: Caring for Aging Baby Boomers, Health Services Research
- MetLife Mature Market Institute. Reports from a research arm of the insurance company on the price of assisted living, the strains of long-distance caregiving, and the cost to employers of baby boomer employees involved in elder care.
- Strength for Caring. A site for family caregivers from Johnson and Johnson with original articles written by experts and how-to materials.
- The Alzheimer’s Association.