Aging: The Times Are A-Changin’Permalink +
Sat, Feb 27, 2010, 7:22 pm // Guest writer
By guest writer Nanette Davis, Ph.D.
Maybe you’ve heard about the Big Boom—that’s what demographers call the 44-64-year-old age group who are joining the ranks of the elderly over the next decade. Like generations before them, they’re forced to confront retirement and chronic health conditions. But unlike those earlier generations, they will undoubtedly face a much longer life expectancy—and quite likely, long-term care.
The longevity revolution is upon us. Prior to the 1800s, only one in ten persons could expect to live to age 65. Today, most will reach that age—and considerably beyond. In fact, those over 85 are now the fastest growing age group in the U.S.
Our technologically advanced society has moved from prolonging life to postponing death, potentially involving years of physical and emotional dependency among older persons. Are we ready for this avalanche of elderly citizens who will invariably demand a high level of social and medical services? Even more, the elderly will need family care that may extend for years.
Today, the number of family caregivers is estimated at 44 million people who provide unpaid care each year for one or more ill or disabled family members or friends. About 15 million of these caregivers are middle-age adults helping sick or disabled parents, and their numbers will grow as baby boomers and their parents age. Without the assistance of these family caregivers, many older people with disabilities would be forced into institutions. The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and AARP point to the savings in public dollars when family caregivers help their sick relatives stay in their own home or that of a loved one.
Where does that leave the family caregiver? Half or more of elder caregivers juggle work, family and caregiving responsibilities, contributing to enormous emotional, physical and financial hardships. A 2007 Report by Evercare and the National Alliance for Caregiving found that nine of 10 caregivers have seen a decline in their own health while caring for an ailing loved one. And “caring for the caregiver” remains an underdeveloped concept among policymakers. Instead, the caregiving burden usually falls directly on the caregiver, who is most likely female, and her family.
Health policy analysts warn us that family caregiving entails the disruption of peoples’ lives. And caregivers remain a vulnerable population. Twenty percent of women caregivers under 65 have no health insurance, while 46% have chronic health conditions themselves. More than half of family caregivers live in households with less than $50,000 in annual income, curtailing the amount of paid help they can afford. My interviews of 60 women living in or near Whatcom County, who serve as family caregivers, opened my eyes to the situation in our community. Most caregivers reported they were the sole caregiver for their loved one—steady family help was hard to come by. They also indicated they were unaware of community support systems, at least in the early period of their caregiving. Lack of public information about community resources and shortage of respite care plagued many overworked caregivers. A few devoted all their life savings to caring for their elderly relatives. Some worked 24/7 to enhance the declining health and life of their aged loved one. Alas, a common result was that the overburdened caregiver became ill herself.
What are we doing in Whatcom County about this emerging elder caregiving crisis? Resources are available—but never enough. The Regional Council on Aging offers a wide selection of information on resources for the aged, but their referral lists for home care workers is often out of date, and lacks a grading system. Families need to know who comes recommended to assist their loved one, and who should be taken off the list. St. Joseph Hospital leads the way in bi-weekly support groups for caregivers, as well as grief counseling. Additionally, the hospital sponsors Adult Day Health Services for persons with dementia, an outstanding community service. Elder Service Providers, an umbrella organization, is a non-profit group that embraces a number of public and private groups serving the elderly. Still, respite care, which provides paid care to enable time out for caregivers, remains in desperately short supply.
Perhaps the brightest light on the horizon is that our community is making a strong effort to respond to the changing face of aging with housing, social supports and a wide array of programs. But is it enough to prevent the ailing elderly avalanche from burying us all?
Nanette is a long-time resident of Bellingham and teaches at Western Washington University in Bellingham. She received her Ph.D. from Michigan State University and completed a post-doctorate degree at Stanford University. Her scholarly work includes nine books and more than 100 articles. She is a recipient of the prestigious Fulbright Senior Scholar Award. Her latest book is Blessed is She: Elder Care~Women’s Stories of Choice, Challenge and Commitment. House of Harmony Press, 2008. It is available at local and national booksellers.
Related Links:-> Click here for her website and other publications
Sat, Feb 27, 2010, 7:22 pm // Guest writerBy guest writer Nanette Davis, Ph.D. Elder care is a growing crisis nationally and locally.
1 comments; last on Mar 02, 2010
Wed, Feb 24, 2010, 6:00 am // Ham HayesHockey night in Canada may be replaced.
2 comments; last on Feb 25, 2010
Mon, Feb 22, 2010, 8:50 am // John ServaisIt is now acceptable to say that our governments are dysfunctional. I agree they are. The question is - why?
10 comments; last on Feb 26, 2010
Thu, Feb 18, 2010, 6:03 am // Kamalla Rose KaurLocal elder, Nita Clothier, talks with Kamalla Rose Kaur about growing up in a logging camp
Wed, Feb 17, 2010, 6:00 am // Ham HayesLeaders in government need to rethink their approach.
Mon, Feb 15, 2010, 6:00 am // Craig MayberryPeople and businesses have had to make changes in what they do, when will government do the same?
1 comments; last on Mar 02, 2010
Mon, Feb 15, 2010, 5:49 am // John ServaisLarry Ellison has won the America's Cup in sailing by playing fair. He is a fine example for us all.
Wed, Feb 10, 2010, 5:59 am // Ham HayesUnlike other species, we need more than basic survival strategies.
1 comments; last on Feb 11, 2010
Mon, Feb 08, 2010, 6:00 am // John ServaisOur county executive, Pete Kremen, has failed us citizens by ignoring the safety concerns of Lummi Nation.
1 comments; last on Feb 10, 2010
Fri, Feb 05, 2010, 1:23 am // Tip JohnsonLummi officials and Lummi Island residents meet -Village to Village
2 comments; last on Feb 07, 2010
Thu, Feb 04, 2010, 5:41 pm // John ServaisNegotiations have reached a conceptual agreement. Details this evening.
Wed, Feb 03, 2010, 4:39 pm // Guest writerBy guest writer Marilyn Olsen. A Bill seeks to impose fees on those requesting access to public documents.
2 comments; last on Feb 07, 2010
Wed, Feb 03, 2010, 2:31 pm // Tip JohnsonWhatcom County lacks both authority and leverage to negotiate a Lummi Island ferry deal
Wed, Feb 03, 2010, 6:00 am // Ham HayesHam is vacationing in Costa Rica. He sends us his observations.
Mon, Feb 01, 2010, 1:55 pm // John ServaisThe Olympic games are disruptive to civil rights wherever they are held. This is proving true again in Vancouver.
1 comments; last on Feb 04, 2010
Election InfoCounty election results
State election results
Coal, Oil & Trains
Community Wise Bellingham
Powder River Basin R. C.
Local Blogs & NewsBellingham Herald
Bham Herald Politics Blog
Bham Politics & Economics
Friends of Whatcom
Get Whatcom Planning
League of Women Voters
Western Front - WWU
Local CausesChuckanut Community Forest
City Club of Bellingham
Futurewise - Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
Reduce Jet Noise
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary Building
WA Conservation Voters
Whatcom Peace & Justice
Port of Bellingham
State election results
US - The White House
WA State Access
WA State Elections
WA State Legislature
Weather & ClimateCliff Mass Weather Blog
Nat Hurricane Center
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That? - climate
Edge of Sports
Famous Internet Skiers
Good Web SitesAl-Jazeera online
Foreign Policy in Focus
Innocence Project, The
Intrnational Herald Tribune
Julia Ioffe/New Republic
Middle East Times
New American Century
Paul Krugman - economics
Personal bio info
Portland Indy Media
Project Vote Smart
Stand for the Troops
Talking Points Memo
The Crisis Papers
War and Piece
NwCitizen 1995 - 2007Early Northwest Citizen
Quiet, Offline or DeadBellingham Police Activity
Citizens of Bellingham
Cordata & Meridian
Facebook Port Reform
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Protect Bellingham Parks
The American Telegraph