GRANDPARENTS ARE IN THE news more than ever today. Some are caregivers, raising their grandkids, while others are separated or estranged from them. What’s going on? Has the role of grandparents diminished, or is it needed now more than ever?
Separated or Estranged
In a recent survey by the National Association for Grandparenting, many adults – 23 percent – had no memories of their grandparents. They were either deceased before they were born, lived far away or made no effort to connect.
We can’t do much about the first, and distance is no excuse for not connecting, not when you can use tools like Skype, Zoom and FaceTime. Even grandparents in the same geographic vicinity may not have a close relationship.
PREPARING FOR OUR golden years in middle age is usually focused on fattening a 401(k), keeping up with the hottest ranked retirement cities and thinking about how we might adapt a home for aging in place. But are you giving much thought to who’ll take care of you when your health, mobility and independence decline?
If you have kids, you may feel some security knowing there’s a ready-made shortlist of people who might look after you – although it’s not a guarantee they’ll be able to help. But a growing number of people are heading into old age without any children to put on the list of potential caregivers.
In 2016, nearly 15 percent of women ages 40-44 hadn’t given birth and were childless, up from 10 percent in 1976, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A 2013 report from AARP projects that by 2040, about 21 percent of the older, disabled population will be childless.
Exercising at least three times a week for six months reduced stress in a group of family caregivers and even appeared to lengthen a small section of their chromosomes that is believed to slow cellular aging, new UBC research has found.
“I am hoping that a new focus on the family caregiver will emerge out of this research,” said Eli Puterman, a professor in the University of British Columbia’s school of kinesiology and lead author of the study. “We need to design interventions that help caregivers take care of their bodies and their minds, and provide the type of support that’s needed to maintain that long-term.”
The population of seniors in the U.S., where Puterman and colleagues from the University of California conducted the study, is expected to nearly double by 2050. Younger family members will increasingly be providing this type of care and it can take a toll on their health.
Men respond to their spouse’s illness just as much as women do and as a result are better caregivers in later life than previous research suggests, according to a new Oxford University collaboration.
The study, published in Journals of Gerontology, Series B, is good news for our increasingly stretched adult care services, which have become more reliant on patients’ family and spouses for support. Conducted with peers from the University of Pennsylvania, the research sits in contrast to previous studies on spousal caregiving, which found that female caregivers tend to be more responsive. However, the new results reveal that men are just as responsive to a partner’s illness, as women.
Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study, the research carried out by Dr Langner of Oxford University and Professor Frank Furstenberg of the University of Pennsylvania, focused on 538 couples in Germany with an average age of 69, where one of them had developed the need for spousal care, between 2001-2015, and looked at how caregivers adjusted their hours in response to the new care need: whether directly responding to their physical needs or performing errands and housework.
As Americans, we believe that people of all ages and abilities deserve to be treated fairly and equally and to live free from abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation. Tomorrow, on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, we join the world in recognizing the importance of elders to our communities and standing up for their rights. Here are five ways you can join this fight.
1. Break Down Isolation
We cannot talk about elder abuse without talking about social isolation. Elders without strong social networks face a greater risk of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. It is up to all of us to ensure that our communities are supporting and engaging older adults. One simple way to do this is by staying in touch with the older adults in your community. So go ahead and knock on your neighbor’s door just to say “hi” or start an intergenerational book club or movie night. You can also support community efforts to empower elders and fight isolation; act by volunteering to deliver meals or serve as a long-term care ombudsman.
For some lower-income Americans, Medicaid is their lifeline to health care. That includes “older nonelderly” adults from 50 to 64 – an age range when chronic health conditions and mobility issues are common. Other people use Medicaid benefits so they can serve as family caregivers.
On Jan. 11, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that states can apply for waivers to implement work requirements for people who receive Medicaid benefits. Some older Americans will be affected.
To date, waivers have been approved in three states and are pending approval in others. Age limits vary for who might have to fulfill work or “community engagement” requirements for up to 80 hours a month. In Kentucky, Medicaid recipients are exempt at 64. In Indiana, 60 is the cutoff age. In Arkansas, however, 50 is the cutoff.
In a new analysis of interviews conducted with children who have asthma, their caregivers and their clinicians, Johns Hopkins researchers found that there was significant lack of agreement about why the kids miss their needed daily anti-inflammatory medication.
A report on the findings, published in the Journal of Asthma on Feb. 8, 2018, highlights the need for improved communication among patients, families and pediatric clinicians, according to Carolyn Arnold, a medical student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the paper’s first author. “Consistent use of daily anti-asthma drugs — generally steroids delivered by inhaler — is lifesaving and the best way to prevent recurrent exacerbations and costly hospitalizations,” she adds.
According to some estimates, Arnold says, up to 60 percent of children with chronic asthma do not get or take their prescribed daily regimen of anti-inflammatory medication, which works to control and prevent asthma by reducing inflammation, swelling and mucus production in the airways. Not taking the prescribed medication regularly can lead to worsened asthma and more frequent asthma exacerbations.
For families of stroke victims, dementia patients and even those recovering from surgery or in rehabilitation, there’s an ever-present fear that something will happen when you aren’t around. What if there’s an accident? What if they fall and can’t call for help? Fortunately, new smart home technology offered by your internet service provider allows families to keep an eye on their loved ones even when they may not be physically present, bringing priceless peace of mind. Here’s how.
1. Video cameras can help ensure safety during home health visits and exercises.
Joint replacement surgeries require regular physical therapy and exercises, much of which must be done at home on a regular basis. Limited mobility can raise concerns about falls, but a video camera placed in a living room or exercise room allows family members to check in during physical therapy routines and make sure their loved one hasn’t fallen or injured themselves.
Stop for a minute and think about what it means to be a family caregiver. What comes to mind? Is it calling to check on a friend or loved one several times a week? Driving mom or dad to doctors’ appointments? Negotiating with a school about the individual education plan for a child with a disability? Helping with personal and household tasks? Helping to coordinate care and service delivery from across the country? If you’re like most, family caregiving is probably a mix of one or more of these or similar tasks, plus a host of other responsibilities you must balance. While the experience of supporting loved ones who need assistance is unique to each of us, perhaps the one common element is the time such a commitment entails.
According to AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, caregivers of adults spend approximately four years providing care, with nearly one-quarter doing so for five years or longer. On average, family caregivers provide 24.4 hours of care per week. Data collected by ACL in 2016 shows that caregivers served by the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) had been providing care for 5-10 years (29.9 percent) while 12 percent had been doing so for 11-20 years. These caregivers spend considerable portions of their day providing care, with fifty percent indicating that their loved ones needed 13-24 hours of help, daily. When asked about the biggest difficulty they faced as family caregivers, 21 percent said they did not have enough time for themselves or their families.
Going for a walk outside, reading, listening to music — these and other enjoyable activities can reduce blood pressure for elderly caregivers of spouses with Alzheimer’s disease, suggests a study in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, the official journal of the American Psychosomatic Society. The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer.
“Greater engagement in pleasant leisure activities was associated with lowered caregivers’ blood pressure over time,” according to the report by Brent T. Mausbach, PhD, of University of California San Diego and colleagues. “Participation in pleasant leisure activities may have cardiovascular benefits for Alzheimer’s caregivers.”
The study included 126 caregivers enrolled in the UCSD Alzheimer’s Caregiver Study, a follow-up study evaluating associations between stress, coping, and cardiovascular risk in Alzheimer’s caregivers. The caregivers were 89 women and 37 men, average age 74 years, providing in-home care for a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease.