Boomers Caring for
Elderly Parents


Baby Boomers are finding themselves actively caring for elderly parents. People are living longer and need more assistance as they try to age in place.

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A research study, "Aging in Place in America", commissioned by Clarity® and the EAR Foundation indicated that most boomers (63%) are actively involved in providing some kind of help or assistance to their elderly parents.

Recently, I was waiting for the transport van to arrive at the doctor's office for a doctor's appointment for my mother (my dad was riding with her on the van). While waiting over an hour, sitting in the lobby watching the people arrive for appointments, it was obvious that a good 50% of the people were elderly accompanied by their daughter or son. Quite often I got up to push the buttons that would hold the doors open for the disabled elderly to enter. Frankly, it was quite surprising how many people were chauffeuring their elderly parents.

Many Baby Boomers are in the sandwich generation where they have responsibilities for their children and also responsibilities towards their elderly parents. They also need to be sure to not neglect their spouse and themselves. This sandwich situation brings about many feelings that need to be addressed.

Baby Boomer Feelings When
Caring for Elderly Parents

Since retiring, I've been dedicating a good share of my time to taking care of my elderly parents. You begin to feel that your life is no longer your own. You feel stressed and frustrated. You tend to feel guilty that you're not doing enough. You can go to bed at night exhausted and still feel guilty. It's a lot of responsibility and you experience a lot of physical and mental wear and tear. My parents are relatively close by. It would be hard to imagine what it would be like to handle this long distance. It would also be hard to imagine what it would be like to still be working full time outside the home.

You need to find the right balance for you. This lesson was learned by me the hard way. Earlier this year, my parents desperately needed me for about two months steady. But there was also my own family to support. I ended up in the hospital because of being run-down, exhausted, and not paying good attention to my own health.

My parents still need me quite a bit, but I just can't be with them every day. You need to take care of yourself.

Fears of Elderly Parents

When caring for elderly parents you'll find that their biggest fear is losing their independence. They want to stay in their home and be able to drive, even though they are concerned about their ability to do so. However, they are more concerned about going to a nursing home than they are about death.

Read my article on independent living for more information on helping your parents stay in their home.

Baby boomers are concerned that, if a nursing home is necessary, their parents could be mistreated, or they could be sad, lonely and scared.

However, there are places that lovingly care for the elderly. I recently found a place where the first question that is asked of potential employees is if they like working with older people. If their answer is no, the potential employment discussion is ended.

I also recently learned a lesson that would help in caring for elderly parents who have dementia or Alzheimer's disease. A friend of mine wrote a letter to the staff at the nursing home where her mother was going to be admitted that was written from her mother's perspective. The letter explained her life before she got dementia. That letter gave the staff information about her mother's past that her mother would not have been able to answer if asked. The letter explained what pleases her mother in her daily life, like quietness and not rowdiness, etc. This was a lesson for me to remember.

Concerns of Elderly Parents

The ability to stay in their homes is dependent on their health problems, their memory problems, and their ability to drive.

Driving ability is a subject that is not easily brought up by the parents or the children, because it really defines independence. An issue I've experienced recently is the scarcity of an efficient and comfortable transportation alternative, especially when there is the need to travel in a wheelchair. What would be a 2 hour round trip for a doctor appointment when using your own vehicle ends up being a 4 to 5 hour round trip in a transport van. In addition, the ride in a transport van can be quite a physical shake-up to the passengers.

Memory problems that are signs of dementia or Alzheimer's disease are a big concern and seem to be more prevalent today. You may want to read this handbook (new window will open) that includes a 15 point Risk Factor Inventory, 12 Early Warning Signs of Dementia, and 10 Commandments to Dementia Prevention.

Type of Help Elderly Parents Need

When caring for elderly parents, one of the biggest things I've found that they need help with is medical bills. You know what it's like talking to insurance companies and doctor's offices. You keep getting put on hold or transferred to other departments. Sometimes they tell you they will call you back. When they do start to answer your question, you need to be sure they understand your question, or the answer you get may not make any sense.

When handling this for my parents, a problem I run into quite often is related to the Privacy Rule of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Refer to my page on estate planning that explains the various documents you need to complete when caring for your elderly parents. I have found these documents, like a Health Care Power of Attorney or Authorized Representative form, need to be submitted to the insurance companies every year. So you'll often call and have them say to you that there is no Power of Attorney or Authorized Representative form on file and they cannot talk to you until they get one in their system.

Another item that is part of caring for elderly parents is health care and related transportation. I often go with my parents to their doctor appointments. As your elderly parents continue to age, wheelchairs are usually needed to get from the car to the doctor's office and back. There are inefficiencies in doctor offices and hospitals that can be quite frustrating to elderly parents. For example, the last doctor appointment we went to together was a follow-up visit from a surgery. It was not an initial appointment to diagnose a problem. Before we could see the doctor, we had to fill out several pages of information that had no relevance whatsoever to my parents' situation. We filled it all out because we were told "that's the rules".

Part of caring for elderly parents, for me, is to weekly do the basic housework and house maintenance, such as, changing sheets, laundry, cleaning, climbing ladders to change light bulbs and troubleshooting problems in the home. Because they are really not able to cook for themselves, I use plastic divided plates with covers to fill with leftovers from our own home meals and put them in their freezer for them. They work nice in the microwave and are re-usable.

Caring for elderly parents is a big responsibility that is also a gift of love.

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