What Do We Do When We Live So Long?

Keeping our loved ones and ourselves happy and healthy

The Senior Boom is officially upon us! In 1776, the average life expectancy was 35 years of age. In 1880, it was 45, and today it is 75-plus years of age and growing. In fact, projections are that by 2020 there will be more than 7 million seniors over the age of 85!  And, as of the 2007 Census, there were more than 272,000 seniors over the age of 65 in Kentucky alone.

Among the reasons why we're living longer are the advances in medical science that have conquered many infectious diseases, improved sanitation and pasteurization processes and many biochemical discoveries.

We're all thrilled that our loved ones are living longer. In fact, our parents may live 10 to 20 years longer than earlier generations and someone will need to care for them. Any woman reading this article will likely relate to the following facts about caregivers:

  • 75 percent of caregivers are women
  • Our average age is 57
  • 39 percent of us have children at home
  • 63 percent are employed elsewhere
  • One-third of us have lost time from work caring for a family member.

Keeping healthy

Since the generation who has traditionally cared for seniors is now working outside the home, we need to explore other options. And not only do we need to explore those options to ensure that our family members are taken care of, we need to ensure that we take care of ourselves. It is a proven fact that as caregivers, in many instances our health declines faster than those we're caring for because we DON'T take care of ourselves. So, let's explore some options to keep us healthy.

When exploring options with our loved ones there are several things to consider. First, what are their lifestyle demands (do they expect to be independent and continue to participate in hobbies/activities)? How is their physical, mental and spiritual health (do they need more hands-on care or need to be in a specific religion-affiliated facility)? And, of course, there are financial considerations. It's important to consult with an elder law attorney who specializes in wills, trusts and estates.

Other considerations include: are our loved ones passive or assertive, are they talkative or quiet, do they smoke, will they maintain their drivers' licenses, do they need to be relatively close to friends and family and what about pets? Make a list of all considerations (with the help of your loved ones, of course, if possible) prior to researching options.

Options to consider

Once the list is complete, we can begin to look at our options. They include home care, assisted/independent living facilities, nursing homes, adult daycare, telephone assurance programs, volunteer visitor programs, hospice, the Alzheimer's Association, Meals on Wheels and senior centers. Despite occasional feelings of desperation, we really do have resources to assist us in this sometimes seemingly overwhelming task.

One of the best ways to research our options is by asking those we trust for recommendations. The Internet is another great source of information. We should conduct a phone interview with any of the resources we feel would be a viable option. We can tell a great deal about any facility or agency just by the way the phone is answered, how knowledgeable the staff is and how much time they're willing to spend with us on the phone.

Once we've identified our top three choices, it is imperative to schedule a visit to the facilities, or schedule a time for the home care agencies to visit us (and your loved ones). It's also a good idea (time allowing) to visit the home care agencies to see how they're operated.

Once we've identified our top option, it's time to check the Better Business Bureau.  That's a great way to have peace of mind and to know that we're helping our loved ones make the best choice. And, once that choice is made, we'll be better able to take the best care of ourselves. Here's to an extra 10 to 20 years on our own lives!

Jeannie Locy is the president/owner of Right at Home. Right at Home is a national franchise. She has offices in Louisville, Ky. and Clarksville, Ind. Jeannie has a master's degree in Management and an MBA. Right at Home is a non-medical home care agency specializing in care for seniors and adults with disabilities.

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