Why Elder Care Should Concern the Baby Boomers

 

With the presidential election looming, issues such as assistance for elder care, the costs of assisted living and prescription medication costs for seniors are hot topics.  Maybe they were in the last election as well but I wouldn’t know.  That wasn’t a part of my life.   In fact, during the last election, my life was in a completely different place.  I was married with my youngest child still a toddler and my eldest not even a teenager at age nine. At that time my biggest political concerns were based upon education, particularly the support of special needs.  Elder care was not a thought.

And now, here I am, divorced with children who are growing up before my eyes in addition to aging parents. It’s amazing how life can change in a matter of four years.  During the last election, Alzheimer’s was not a present factor in my life like it is today. I didn’t find myself worrying about caring for my parents, where they would live, how they would get around, and who would provide the care and assistance that their declining health requires. As this election draws closer, I find myself extremely concerned with elder care as this is a matter that relates directly to my aging parents.

The Huffington Post reports that, “roughly 40 million Americans provide unpaid care to one or more people at least 65 years old”.  Many  caregivers are faced with the question of whether or not to place their loved one in an assisted living facility or, even worse, a nursing home. Besides being extremely costly, they are depicted as incredibly gloomy and depressing. In his Washington Post blog, Martin Bayne describes the heartbreak and hardship he experiences living in assisted living. He illustrates the fact that he has been subjected to watching those around him “waste away” until they reach death, followed by another friend beginning to “waste away” until they die, too.  It is these types of stories that make us thing, are assisted living facilities a home or merely a place where the elderly go to await death? Is that the kind of place I want to send someone I love?

Given the frightening statistics on those who require elder care, along with my worries about my own parents, it’s not surprising that undecided voters who are responsible for caring for an aging loved one are looking for policies and positions in support of elder care from the presidential candidates. I, along with 40 million other Americans, am one of the middle aged people who struggles with the question of how to care for my elderly parents as their health declines.

Just this week, in a matter of hours, my life turned around.  My father had a stroke.  Coupled with his existing Alzheimer’s and other issues, it is clear he will not be able to return to his own home.  The immediate assessment from his case manager was that he needs to be placed in a nursing home.  My cousin, a nurse, has already said that putting him in a nursing home would surely cause him to decline more rapidly.   Until I became CEO of PALS Built, I didn’t realize there was an alternative solution to elder care.

As the number of elders requiring care and assistance rises, assisted living structures that can be attached to a caregiver’s home are becoming more prevalent.  Although it may seem like it at times, you don’t need to opt for assisted living or a nursing home and can prevent your loved ones from watching others waste away, wondering, “Am I next?”

Why the ranch style homes of the 60’s are making a come back

Ranch Style homes were extremely popular in the 1960s and now, as Boomers are looking for more accessible living design, are regaining  their popularity due to the range of benfits that ranch style homes offer families. Defined by a long, typically one story, spacious and open house plan, these homes offer easier access for the elderly and disabled.

Ranch style homes are again gaining popularity

While I used to much prefer colonial houses over ranch stlyle homes and the beauty that accompanies them, I find myself now gravitating towards the unmatched convenience of ranch style homes. For instance, since this style home is almost always only one floor, it is much easier to accommodate my aging father, as climbing stairs is difficult. Even in the summer, the fact that the sliding door opens directly onto the patio without any rickety porch stairs for him to climb makes it a non-issue for him to enjoy summer barbeques and outdoor activities with the rest of our family. As these homes are commonly either L-shaped or rectangular, they are easy to get around since everything is in close proximity.

 

Furthermore, the inside of ranch style houses are designed to be quite spacious, clean, and airy. This makes them easy to clean. This is great for a wide range of people-from the on-the-go mom to a senior citizen, it is helpful and convenient to live in a house that can be cleaned easily and efficiently.

Another useful aspect of the ranch style homes is that their longer structure takes up more of your property, which is, again, ideal for aging
citizens
. The decreased yard space allows for quicker and easier upkeep of the lawn and landscape around the house, surely helpful to anyone who is struggling to get around.

Finally, these houses are affordable. In a crumbling economy, it is important to own a home that is both affordable and a hot commodity on the market, which this style is both indeed.

With a wide array of advantages to living in this once popular and now up-and-coming styled home, it is easy to see why they are once again on the rise, and especially for those accommodating aging parents, it is surely worth considering.

Independent Living may not seem a big concern for people in their 30s but it is one of the primary concerns for the elderly.  This week Pfizer and several partners launched a social media initiative named Get Old.   This online community has been created to allow Americans to talk about issues of aging and how they are impacting individuals, families and society.  The front of the site asks you to answer one simple question – “How Do You Feel About Getting Old?” The four answers include Optimistic, Angry, Prepared and Uneasy.  The survey finds Independent Living More of a Concern than Dying for Elderly

A video that accompanies this talks about how we’re all living longer thanks to medical advancements.  True, but does this really make us happier?  According to a survey conducted by Gallup & Robinson and underwritten by Pfizer, it depends.    The poll, which surveyed 1,017 people over age 18, found that 64 percent of respondents were more afraid of losing independence or living with pain or physical limitations than dying (7 percent) and that health had an impact on whether people were more or less optimistic about aging.

The issue of independence is big and a growing concern.  Older Americans want to remain living in their own home as long as possible.  But once that’s no longer possible, the question of alternative living situations is stressful.  The survey also found that while 51 percent of those 18 to 65 would take a parent into their home, only 25 percent of those 65 and older wanted to live with a younger relative if they could no longer take care of themselves.

But what’s the alternative?  Because we are indeed living longer, many people are out-living their money so high-priced assisted living facilities are not a financial option for many families.  Nursing homes are even more expensive.  The quality of care in some of these facilities is also questionable and isolation from friends and family can have serious effects on their health.
A new study released found that isolation and loneliness in the elderly can raise their risk of dying from heart disease or another cause.

While multigenerational living is common in many cultures already, it will become increasingly popular – and sometimes the only solution – for many Americans.  But to make it appealing to older adults, there will need to still be some level of independence and privacy.  Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are becoming increasingly popular as the solution.  PALS Built modular home additions are handicap accessible studio, 1 bedroom and 2 bedroom suites that can be attached on to an adult child’s home but are completely self-contained.  They can be completely installed from start to finish in as little as 8 weeks and are a fraction of the cost of assisted living facilities or having a contractor remodel an existing home.  For seniors it allows them to maintain their independence but live in a safe home environment close to their family or a relative.

How do you feel about growing older?