From Gen X to the 'sandwich generation'
By Judson Haims
You're rushing out of the office on a weeknight, hoping to get your daughter to soccer practice on time, cook dinner and help your other child with his homework. Just as you hit the road, your cell phone rings. It's the pharmacy telling you that the two prescriptions your father needs immediately are ready for pickup. Or you're off to your son's school play just as your mom's neighbor calls to inform you that she has fallen again and needs you right away.
If these scenarios sound familiar, you're stuck in the middle and have joined the "sandwich generation." The term refers to adults with families of their own who find themselves caring for their parents as well. According to numbers from the National Family Caregiver Survey, 44 percent of Americans between the ages of 45 and 55 have aging parents or in-laws as well as children under 21.
This means that lots of families are dealing with the stress of running two households. Whether your parent lives with you, lives nearby or lives in another state, trying to juggle all these responsibilities is stressful, no matter how much support you have from family and friends.
And don't forget the guilt. There's plenty of that, too. Guilt over not spending enough time helping your kids with their homework because you're cooking and freezing meals for your dad. Guilt over making your mom postponing her doctor's appointment because your meeting at work ran overtime. Guilt at not having enough time to spend with your spouse. Guilt over asking your next-door neighbor to drive the kids to football practice - again - because you have to make long-distance arrangements to attend to your loved one's needs in another state.
Caring for an aging or ill parent is a full-time job that can take a toll on your life. Add to that the demands of your job, lost time at the job, plus your immediate family's needs and chances are you're going to need assistance along the way.
Are senior assisted living facilities an option? How about having our parents move in with us? What about senior home care professionals as an option? Not everyone needs to be placed into an institutional facility and not all last resorts have to end up with mom and dad moving in. Many seniors, with some help, can remain in the comfort and familiarity of their own home.
According to projections of the state demography office, by 2020 Eagle County's population of those 65 and older will increase 163 percent. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that by 2050, the number of Americans aged 65 and older will be 88.5 million, more than double the estimated population of 40.2 million in 2010.
Eagle County has an estimated population of 51,854 persons of which 6.1 percent are over the age of 65. This means that just about 3,000 seniors are now faced with perplexing questions which may include: what is the occupancy of Golden Eagle Senior Center, the county's only senior care facility; can they relocate to where their children live; what are their options should they choose to stay in their current homes? Is our county prepared for this?
Do the adult children living in Eagle County have a plan for taking care of their parents? Will our siblings living elsewhere step up and offer to have mom and dad live with them? Our community should be concerned with the capacity of our only senior service facility in Eagle. Even with the soon to be built Castle Peak Senior Care Facility, our supply of senior service is far outweighed by demand. We as a community should all be looking 5, 10, or 15 years ahead.
Is our community prepared for the current senior population? For those of us who plan to stay here in the valley once our children grow up and leave home, we should be concerned. While there are a number of ideas looming to address the future needs of our county, they may never come to fruition unless we all come together as community to address our needs.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. His contact information is, www.visitingangels.com/comtns, 970-328-5526.