Plan out care for aging parents before it’s really needed

Judy Harvey
For Sun-Times Media
Sept. 4 8:30 a.m.
TIPS FOR THE TALK

Roger Carr, owner and operator of Home Instead Senior Care of Naperville and Fox Valley, says having the talk with senior loved ones should start about age 70, or the 40-70 Rule. Here are some tips for starting the conversation:

Don’t go in with set agendas and goals
Start by laying out options
Don’t force action immediately
Remember to listen to all parties
Stay focused on needs of the senior parent
It’s not about winning

Face-to-face communication is the best; if not always possible, then make direct phone calls

Source: http://www.caregiverstress.com/family-communication/40-70/

New study

Parents are better off having daughters if they want to be cared for in their old age suggests a new study, which finds that women appear to provide as much elderly parent care as they can, while men contribute as little as possible.

“Whereas the amount of elderly parent care daughters provide is associated with constraints they face, such as employment or childcare, sons’ caregiving is associated only with the presence or absence of other helpers, such as sisters or a parent’s spouse,” said study author Angelina Grigoryeva, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Princeton University.

According to the study, daughters provide an average of 12.3 hours of elderly parent care per month as compared to sons’ 5.6 hours. “In other words, daughters spend twice as much time, or almost seven more hours each month, providing care to elderly parents than sons,” said Grigoryeva, who will present her research at the 109th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

The study also indicates that in the division of elderly parent care among siblings in mixed-sex sibling groups, gender is the single most important factor in the amount of assistance each sibling provides.

“Sons reduce their relative caregiving efforts when they have a sister, while daughters increase theirs when they have a brother,” Grigoryeva said. “This suggests that sons pass on parent caregiving responsibilities to their sisters.” Grigoryeva’s paper relies on data from the 2004 wave of the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, a longitudinal panel study that surveys a nationally representative sample of more than 26,000 Americans over the age of 50 every two years.

Get to work by 8 a.m. Check over and respond to emails before 9 a.m. meeting.

Get daughter to afternoon volleyball practice. Talk on the way about her science project.

Visit mom. Notice her cough is getting worse. Leave dinners for a few days in the fridge/freezer, check her medications, wash her dishes before leaving for home.

After dinner, sit down with son and husband to review college application choices.

Talk over finances with husband for getting son his own car. Husband says he needs to get over to his dad’s to do yard work this weekend.

Get to sleep by midnight and start similar schedule over again

Sound familiar? It should. Almost half of all Americans between the ages of 40 and 59 are primary caregivers on some level for both their children — either college-aged or younger — and their own parents, according to a 2013 Pew research study “the Sandwich Generation.”

“Adults who are part of the sandwich generation … are pulled in many directions. Not only do many provide care and financial support to their parents and their children, but nearly 4-in-10 (38 percent) say both their grown children and their parents rely on them for emotional support,” the study states.

Not surprisingly, one in three members of the sandwich generation finds themselves in a constant state of hurriedness and burdened with responsibilities, according to Pew Research.

The cycle continues and then gets more complicated once the senior parent becomes seriously injured from a fall or stroke, or the signs of dementia begin to worsen, or any life-threatening illness develops. Then caregiving burdens increase, and adult children need to figure out a more hands-on plan.

Who will do what? Who is available to be there more to take care of mom or dad full time? Who will handle the finances? Who will manage her day-to-day and long-term medical decisions? Who will make arrangements if she passes? The primary caregiver is usually left to carry on doing double duty as always for her parent and family until she is burned out.

Major decisions are made when emotions run high and families are physically worn down. That is not the time to be making such major decisions that affect not only the senior parent but the adult children as well, according to Roger Carr, owner and operator of Home Instead Senior Care of Naperville and Fox Valley.

“When you wait to have these difficult conversations, families are usually in crisis mode. You don’t have the time to have real conversations. Crisis times push emotions high,” he said. “Most families have stress factors or siblings who are in disagreement. We see that most of the time.”

The best, most comprehensive plans are made when families are not in such a heightened state of stress and emotions. Therefore, the best time to get plans in motion is before something major happens.

But, getting people to the table to talk about these matters is not so easy.

“I think it is human nature to kick the can down the road. Those talks are tough to have by their very nature. The subject is difficult,” Carr said.

Most Americans are not comfortable talking about aging — their own or their parents — and certainly we are not comfortable as a culture in discussing end-of-life plans.

“We love youth and vigor, and we love to look great,” Carr said. “Look at how much we spend on face lifts and exercise programs — and that is good to keep in shape — but we are all fighting the inevitable. We all will age.”

Senior parents often will avoid the conversation as they fear a loss of independence and giving up control, or see it as a sign of weakness that they will need help one day.

For one reason or another, most families are not equipped to have these critical conversations, Carr said, so he recommends the 40-70 Rule as outlined on the Home Instead website.

“Many experts agree: by the time you approach age 40 and a loved one is around 70, you should have had the “talk” about issues so many families want to avoid,” the website states.

Carr suggests easing into the issues during a relaxed atmosphere with as many key family members present as possible.

“Reaching common ground out of the crisis mode is a huge help to all parties,” Carr said. “Open up the lines of communication. You don’t have to solve every problem or every issue. Just get it started.”

If adult children are scattered across the country, then set aside a time over longer holiday or summer vacation visits. It can be helpful for the siblings to have their own talk separate from their parent or parents to get a sense of how each feels.

“Make sure everyone has their say,” Carr said,

Make sure that whoever is the primary caregiver has the full family support and relief when they need it to avoid burnout and high-stress levels. (Surveys show the day-to-day caregiving usually falls to a daughter).

Also, discuss care options outside family members with either in-home care such as Home Instead or assisted living.

Carr knows from personal experience the strains of being a primary caregiver and the care role reversal with an ill parent. He was a software designer with a multinational corporation when his father was diagnosed with lung cancer.

He was suddenly living the life so many adults are struggling with: take care of his father and work full time. “It was a very stressful,” he said.

After Sept. 11, 2001, his work got cut back like so many others, and he started to reflect on what he wanted to do. Then, 12 years ago, Carr started his Home Instead franchise in Naperville.

“I knew I couldn’t be the only one going through this with caring for my dad and all,” he said.

He encourages people to reach out to Home Instead to talk over options or just check out the ideas outlined in the 40-70 Rule plans available on the website.

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TIPS FOR THE TALK

Roger Carr, owner and operator of Home Instead Senior Care of Naperville and Fox Valley, says having the talk with senior loved ones should start about age 70, or the 40-70 Rule. Here are some tips for starting the conversation:

Don’t go in with set agendas and goals
Start by laying out options
Don’t force action immediately
Remember to listen to all parties
Stay focused on needs of the senior parent
It’s not about winning

Face-to-face communication is the best; if not always possible, then make direct phone calls

Source: http://www.caregiverstress.com/family-communication/40-70/

New study

Parents are better off having daughters if they want to be cared for in their old age suggests a new study, which finds that women appear to provide as much elderly parent care as they can, while men contribute as little as possible.

“Whereas the amount of elderly parent care daughters provide is associated with constraints they face, such as employment or childcare, sons’ caregiving is associated only with the presence or absence of other helpers, such as sisters or a parent’s spouse,” said study author Angelina Grigoryeva, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Princeton University.

According to the study, daughters provide an average of 12.3 hours of elderly parent care per month as compared to sons’ 5.6 hours. “In other words, daughters spend twice as much time, or almost seven more hours each month, providing care to elderly parents than sons,” said Grigoryeva, who will present her research at the 109th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

The study also indicates that in the division of elderly parent care among siblings in mixed-sex sibling groups, gender is the single most important factor in the amount of assistance each sibling provides.

“Sons reduce their relative caregiving efforts when they have a sister, while daughters increase theirs when they have a brother,” Grigoryeva said. “This suggests that sons pass on parent caregiving responsibilities to their sisters.” Grigoryeva’s paper relies on data from the 2004 wave of the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, a longitudinal panel study that surveys a nationally representative sample of more than 26,000 Americans over the age of 50 every two years.

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