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Taking Care of Elderly Parents : A Challenge for Boomers

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care versus cure

Taking care of elderly parents is the next big challenge for the baby boomers.

Boomers are becoming caregivers to their parents with dementia at a rate of almost 1 every minute! The vast majority are due to Alzheimer’s disease which strikes 50% of people over 85.

“Every day, I am seeing more and more ‘boomers’ hit the wall – caring for their own children, nurturing their own marriage, and then having mom and dad start falling apart.” Van Nuys, CA  August 30, 2012

“Baby Boomers” are finding themselves in the role of caregiver to their parents, in record numbers. The leading edge of the “Baby Boomer” generation turned 65 last year, which puts their parent’s age at 85+. Statistics from the C.D.C., say that nearly 50% of adults 85 and older are suffering from Alzheimer Disease. The National Institute on Aging predicts that adults with Alzheimer’s can live up to 20 years after diagnosis. However, Alzheimer’s can strike at a much earlier age.

Unfortunately, rather than looking forward to retirement, “Boomers” are taking on the care of a parent with a progressive, irreversible illness. And because judgment and reason as well as memory are affected, these sufferers need constant care and supervision.

For families learning to navigate through the maze of health care options, services and products, family caregivers are discovering a comprehensive tool that has been described by some as a “lifesaver”: a Geriatric Care Assessment. In the hands of a Gerontologist or a Geriatric Care Manager this plan can spell the difference for families when they are facing long-term caregiving, because it takes into account everything from the person’s physical environment, to finances, to family support structures.

An elaborate time consuming process, Professionals generally charge $400 – $800 for a comprehensive Care Plan or Assessment. But many families coming to terms with this terrible disease are not aware of this option unless recommended by doctors or hospital discharge planners.

In the past, when less was known about how Alzheimer’s progressed, a geriatric care plan was complex and could only be assembled by a knowledgeable professional. But as awareness for the disease has grown, along with services and programs, family caregivers have become very skillful at following these care plans. With the proper guidance they can even develop their own.

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Last year in 2011, Alzheimer’s care cost Americans over 161 billion dollars. Not just in medical care, but in lost wages, private duty nursing, assisted living and so forth, adding financial insecurity to the already heavy burden of the stress associated with caregiving. As Mr. Vanderhider says: “I can see in my client’s eyes that they desperately need the guidance, but they JUST can’t swing the expense. And in good conscious I can’t say: sorry – go ask your monthly support group, or try to get the doctor to give you a 10-minute description of what you can expect for the next decade and a half,”

The bottom line is a new case of Alzheimer’s occurs almost every minute. Today there are over 6 million reported cases of Alzheimer’s in the United States, and there are over 10 million unpaid caregivers (mostly families) that need a good solid map to successfully negotiate the maze of Alzheimer’s care. To that end much can be learned at websites like Caregiverrelief.com, but few ofter the necessary tools to use that new knowledge.

 

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