Care for the Aging

Let’s reconsider how we care for aging loved ones”

True story:  An executive makes a phone call to check on mom prior to attending an important meeting.  There is no answer.  After repeated calls, there is still no answer. Immediately assuming there must be an emergency, the executive leaves the meeting place and arrives home to learn that mom had just removed her hearing aid!

Sound familiar?  You bet it does.

In the early 1990s, my family members and I faced the dilemma of trying to maintain  professional careers, care for our immediate families, and meet the increasing needs of our elderly aunts who both required  regular personal care assistance as well as emotional and financial support.  It was challenging and often exhausting. We were ill-equipped.

Today, thankfully, many options are available to aging parents and their adult children.  Private sector in-home care services and innovative projects in faith communities are making an enormous difference to individual families who are trying to “figure it out.”

However, while there are now more resources available, I believe that there is still a great need to adjust our thinking about aging.

Aging is not a punishment for living; it is evidence that we have lived. It is another — often extraordinary — time in the life of our parents and loved ones. That said, I don’t dismiss the overwhelming challenges of caring for an older person. Based on three decades of personal experiences in caring for older family members, one conclusion is obvious. It will often seem that your best is just not good enough and you will feel guilty.

Creative ideas needed

There are many statistics and reports about aging and elder care and its impact on the workplace, social organizations, the nation’s financial and healthcare resources, and the family.  However, a new conversation is now underway. The baby boomer generation is demanding answers to questions about healthy aging, what being older really means in lifestyle changes, and new care alternatives.

This country has no shortage of creative and energetic problem solvers who will can find  solutions to the challenges of getting older.  Some physicians are reviving the old practice of making “house calls” to their patients. Seniors are devising communal living arrangements to meet their mutual physical, financial and social needs.  One more brief example:

Take a look at the aisles of the local grocery store. Seniors can select personal care products in multi-color packages with a wide assortment of choices in design, function and size.

Baby boomers have always wanted choices.  The traditional patterns and methods of caring for them as they age will not be acceptable. Consider all the options and resources that are available in 2012 that did not exist 20 years ago.  Those options and resources are going to have to multiple significantly again within the next 10 years.

As we develop new options and resources for the care of the aging, let’s remember to make the most important choice – the choice to celebrate and respect life in its final stage.