Baby Boomers Face Stress with Parental Care
> 6/27/2007 1:18:27 PM

The stress of dealing with an elderly parent can be very straining even for the most reserved and stable of individuals. According to results of a recent USA Today/ABS News Gallup poll, of the 500 baby-boomers surveyed, 31 percent reported currently providing personal and or financial care for elderly parent. About 50% of those surveyed also reported that providing parental care did cause them stress, which ranged in severity from nominal to severe. The USA Today article describes how the stress associated with caring for an elderly parent can stir numerous powerful and difficult emotions, including unresolved family issues, anger and even resentment.

Says, Donna Schempp of the San Francisco-based Family Caregiver Alliance, a non-profit group for caregivers,

"There's a lot of depression and sadness watching a parent who was competent and capable become frail and needy. Its very hard.

As the article goes on to describe, long distance care can often times create a dilemma all its own. According to Richard Johnson, an aging specialist at the Urban Institute, stress can actually be elevated when someone does not live in close proximity to an elderly parent. Johnson explained that adults with parents who are aging at a distance can suffer from anxiety because they cannot see first hand how their parents are doing. This type of situation also creates an elevated amount of guilt, which adults hae to deal with.

Interestingly, another aspect of this situation is that families are increasingly smaller today than they were in the past. As William Frey, of the Brookings Institution explained to USA Today, with fewer siblings to assist with responsibilities associated with elder care, the stress on adults will see an increase in the future.

With life expectancy higher than ever, many Boomers are now finding themselves in a position where their recently emptied nest is being filled with duties related to caring for elderly or aging parents. It's not out of the question for a 65-year-old retiree to face responsibilities related to caring for a 90- or 95-year-old mother or father, and that care could extend for years into decades. Certainly, this will be a source of stress, but unfortunately there are no easy answers. Caring for our aging population is only one of the challenges that we face today. What we do need to be more cognizant of however, is that these caregiving situations can be stressful, even when we don't think they will be. Sharing responsibilities across families (siblings, cousins, etc.) as well as within relationships can help to ease that strain and make helping one's mother or father age an enjoyable part of growing up.

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