During the mid-20th century, the US saw a sudden boom in the number of babies being born. Between 1946 and 1964 emerged the Baby Boomers, a demographic cohort steadily approaching their golden years.
According to studies, this half makes up 17% of the US population. That means one in six people is 65 years or older. By 2030, the US is expected to have more seniors than children. In general, this generation has a higher life expectancy, so we can anticipate the graying to continue.
America’s Care Crisis: Baby Boomers are Aging, But Are Their Children Ready?
As the sun sets over the horizon of their lives, Baby Boomers are struggling. Many suffer from chronic health conditions, mobility issues, and the weight of the wedge between their world and the contemporary one.
Their children, generation X and millennials, find themselves unprepared. Some do not even understand the gravity of the situation. In this article, we will discuss America’s long-term care crisis in detail.
Senior Isolation and Loneliness: An Untold Crisis
As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the 2022 suicide rates were highest among older adults. The figures are higher among geriatric men than women. The former is also often involved in a homicide-suicide – killing of self after killing their spouse.
A recent case took place in Montgomery County where a 93-year-old man fatally shot himself after killing his wife (94) in their Lansdale home. It was found that the wife, Florence Brown, suffered from dementia, and her husband was the sole caregiver.
Another somewhat similar incident occurred in Kentucky where the 96-year-old Seymour Taffler attempted to kill his wife (90) by strangulation to ‘end’ her suffering from dementia. Before one can offer an objective opinion, it’s important to lay the axe at the root of the problem. Old age is not an easy stage of life, but today, it’s even worse.
At a time of being surrounded by loved ones, our Baby Boomers are living under constant fear of dying alone. Many feel isolated even with sufficient social contact because of factors like failing health, loss of a spouse, generational gap, etc.
Aging in Place vs. Assisted Living
Though Baby Boomers’ children want to help, many feel helpless themselves, and rightfully so. They have busy and challenging lives, and providing constant assistance can be an unsustainable prospect. Some are torn between assisted living and in-home care.
Most seniors wish to age in place and not in a strange facility. Though the choice is a tough one to make, it largely depends upon the older adult’s situation combined with their wishes. In general, the following three factors must be considered so that seniors receive the care and company they need.
The Type of Care Needed
Every senior’s situation is unique and will require care accordingly. In general, if they are still independent enough to drive around the community and have no mobility issues or life-threatening conditions, home care is the best option.
This decision will also require their children’s discretion. They must ask themselves questions like –
- Are they able to become a caregiver?
- Do they live close enough to offer regular support and companionship?
- Do they want to live with their parents without such an arrangement breeding negative feelings?
- Does their personality make caregiving viable according to their parents’ unique needs?
If it all seems a bit too strenuous, professional help is the best option. Finally, nobody enjoys losing control of their lives. Unless severe mobility issues are involved, the senior’s wishes must be honored.
Most Baby Boomers are uninterested in conventional three meals a day in an attractive dining area with regular golf and sun-soaking on the side. They believe in ‘intentional living,’ even during their golden years (at least as long as their body allows).
Let’s take the example of one of the most desirable settlements in America – Thousand Oaks. Besides being green and safe, this city welcomes multi-cultural and generational living. Even its senior members have plenty of ways to feel useful – volunteering, gardening, etc. A senior is more likely to prefer home care services in Thousand Oaks than assisted living.
The Key Differences Between the Two Options
It’s important to be aware of the two options’ differences to understand how each works. In an assisted living facility, seniors live in their respective rooms or small apartments. They are taken care of within the facility, depending on their needs.
These include meal preparations, housekeeping, transportation, etc., for a monthly fee. The family can primarily focus on their relationship with the senior instead of their care needs. However, seniors may not receive consistent one-on-one care, and they may not enjoy living in a vast group setting.
According to Always Best Care Senior Services, in-home care is customized for the senior’s needs. Plus, they get to bond with a single caregiver as opposed to different people. The care arrangements are flexible, ranging from meal preparation to using the toilet and bathing.
The family may need to show deeper ongoing involvement, and the home may need some safety modifications. Once the key differences are clear, it’s easier to compare the two with the current situation and choose accordingly.
Children also need to understand the finances involved in assisted living and home care services before making a choice. This is not easy since the costs will depend upon factors like family help already available, senior’s needs, etc.
One can shortlist some assisted living and home care communities in the area to get accurate costs for their needs. Some people have the idea that home care will naturally be cheaper. However, that may not always be the case. Part-time care (less than 40 hours a week) will be cheaper than assisted living, but full-time care will cost more.
Furthermore, the location also matters. For instance – a home care company in Knoxville will charge less for its services when compared to one in San Francisco. This has to do with the cost of living in the two cities. Where the former’s cost of living is 14% lower than the national average, the latter outranks the same by 76%.
It’s important to take this process slow since we’re looking at probably the next 5 to 10 years’ financial estimates. Trusted friends and family can be involved if the whole analysis seems overwhelmingly challenging. Even a financial advisor or accountant’s help should not be ruled out.
The Bottom Line
In some cases, the answer may be straightforward. For example – if the senior requires part-time care and wishes to age in place, in-home care is the best.
The same for assisted living can be challenging, especially when the senior wishes against it, but their situation demands otherwise. In such cases, several heart-to-heart interactions may be needed to help them understand their position.
One can also pay a visit to the facility along with the senior so they can decide whether the social amenities are up to their liking. This includes religious services, types of visiting activities, day trips, meal times, etc. In any case, we may expect to see more such difficult conversations as the Baby Boomers reach their life’s eventide.
The time to prepare and plan is now to secure our elderly loved ones’ future. The crisis is looming, and the succeeding generations (particularly the millennials) must brace themselves to support their hoary-headed precursors.