Even with her body full of painkillers, she doesn't have the strength to sit up.So Mary Flanagan stretches her withered arms out to her daughter at her bedside.Dee Toole cradles the family matriarch, raising the 85-year-old woman upright.Toole kisses the gray strands on top of mother's head.For the second time in a week, Toole has brought her mother, who has Alzheimer's disease, to the North Broward Medical Center in Deerfield Beach, Fla.During this visit last month, Toole cringes as her mother grimaces in pain, a result of her muscles tightening from a drug reaction."I don't want her to finish out her life this way," said Toole, 64, who moved her mother into her Coconut Creek apartment a year and a half ago. "That's not a life." Toole is among a growing number of adults -- many of them baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 -- whose lives are consumed with visiting their parents in nursing homes and hospital rooms, or dressing and bathing them in the adult children's homes.About 20 million adults are caring for their aging parents, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, a San Francisco-based social service organization. The adult children do so while juggling their own lives.Experts call these baby boomers part of the "sandwich generation," referring to those who are raising a child, supporting adult children or caring for aging parents. And their double duties are likely to last for some time as boomers are having children later and their elderly parents are living longer.
That leads to hard questions: How do I stave off retirement? How do I juggle work and caregiving? How do I avoid stripping my parents of their independence?Children of the sandwich generation -- saddled with debt and the rising costs of owning a home -- are leaning on their parents heavily for financial support."There are more people caring for their aging parents right now than there are people caring for their own children," said Edith Lederberg, executive director of the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Broward County, Fla.Two in 10 boomers financially support a parent, according to a survey of about 1,000 baby boomers last year by the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C.Caretaker's HelpThrough a Medicaid waiver program, a caretaker comes to Esperanza Benitez's Miami home in the mornings before she leaves for work to feed her 93-year-old mother, take her to buy groceries and give her companionship."Otherwise, I couldn't work," said Benitez, a referral and information specialist with the Alliance for Aging, a Miami, Fla., nonprofit organization.Benitez has taken care of her mother, Teresa Martinez, for the past 14 years. Benitez's disabled son works in the mornings and stays with Martinez in the afternoons, and her 25-year-old daughter comes over on Sundays to help out so Benitez can go to church.
"My belief in Jesus Christ and the faith in him has kept me strong," she said.
About 80 percent of long-term care is given at home by a family member, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance.
The new caregiver role is forcing some adults to move closer to their parents.
"It's something I didn't think twice about," said Otis J. Latin Sr., who recently resigned after nine years as Fort Lauderdale fire chief to return to Texas to care for his mother, Effie Williams, 78, who has Alzheimer's disease.
Latin, 58, took a job as director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in Austin, Texas. This summer, he and his wife, Gloria, plan to move Williams into the home they are building in Austin. "My mother has sacrificed for me all my life," he said.
Experts say employers are slowly recognizing the need for flexible schedules and referral services for adults who have become caregivers.
When faced with an emergency, some adults are able to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to care for a parent with a serious health condition. But under a new Paid Family Leave law in California, employees can take up to six weeks partially paid to care for an ill parent.
From last July through March of this year, more than 15,000 people in California took advantage of the law to care for an ill family member. Statistics don't show whether that family member is an aging parent, but the law has made it easier for those caring for parents, said Kim Kruckel, the paid family leave coordinator at the Legal Aid Society's Employment Law Center in San Francisco, Calif."It eases the financial burden for people when they must miss work to care for an aging parent with a serious health condition," Kruckel said.Similar laws are under consideration in Massachusetts and Washington state.Demand for ServicesOutside the workplace, the prevalence of aging parents living longer creates a demand in communities for more senior services, transportation and housing, experts said. "The need is getting greater and the ability to respond to their needs has lessened," said Lederberg, whose organization funds six senior centers, 42 nutrition centers and other services for Broward's elderly on a $27 million budget. This year, a bill co-sponsored by state Rep. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, that would give Broward county (Fla.) voters the opportunity to decide whether to increase property taxes to create a Broward County Council for Services failed to make it out of the House.
The money would have provided transportation, day care and other services to thousands of Broward seniors. Caregivers also need more support groups and resources like the Aging and Disability Resource Center and the Alliance for Aging in Miami-Dade County. "People are willing to do the care, but they need some help," said Bonnie Lawrence, a spokeswoman for the Family Caregiver Alliance in San Francisco, Calif. "They need education. They need emotional support, and they need financial help." Caregiving has forced some adults to take early retirement, which affects their income, pensions and Social Security. Others will have to put off retirement, experts said. When she moved her mother in with her, Toole had to return to work part time at the North Broward Hospital District. She turned part of her living room into a bedroom for her mother -- a woman from the Low Country in South Carolina who used to make a macaroni-and-cheese-with-onions dish from scratch that her daughter still talks about. Toole would rise about 6 a.m. to bathe and feed her and give her medicine. Flanagan spent 10 days in the hospital in April with a pinched nerve in her back. Toole then moved her into a nursing home for rehabilitation. More than a week ago, Flanagan was rushed to Florida Medical Center with respiratory failure. She spent 2 1/2 days on a ventilator.
"Last night, she told me, 'I don't want to die,'" Toole said last week. "Whatever it takes. I am right there with my mother. I will help her fight every step of the way." Formula for CareElinor Ginzler, coauthor of Caring for Your Parents: The Complete AARP Guide (Sterling, 2006), said that one of the toughest aspects of taking care of a parent is taking care of yourself. "Going to your kid's soccer game may be the healthiest thing you can do," said Ginzler, director of livable communities for AARP. Many adults also struggle with seeing a parent lose control of his or her life. Pamela Adams' father, Edwin C. Adams, 87, was once an entrepreneur in New York who, in his spare time, made evening gowns for her mother. But he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and over the past 20 years, his health declined. He started to get lost while driving and failed to take his medicine. One day, he fell in his bedroom, grabbed a blanket and stayed there until someone came. So, Adams, 56, decided to put him into a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., nursing home last fall. His days are spent riding around the home in his wheelchair, talking with his roommate and watching television. She visits in the morning before work. Sometimes she sits on the edge of his bed and plays with his toes or tells him about her day. He chimes in, giving her advice. "You get to that door and you put on your happy face," said Adams, who said she wants her father to feel that she's glad to see him and "this is a good day." She gets help from siblings and friends. But watching her father decline is painful. "I can't say he has one illness that's killing him," said Adams, who owns a community and government relations consulting firm. "It's life that's killing him." Source: The Miami Herald. Powered by Yellowbrix
Source: Money & Work