- Boomers sandwiched between parents and the kids
- How to spot senior depression
- How to have more effective communication with the elderly
Boomers sandwiched between parents and the kids
If you're a baby boomer in Canada today, chances are you could be feeling a bit like a piece of meat or chopped egg, sandwiched between dual responsibilities that are consuming a lot of your energy, time and money.
Two recent polls by Investors Group confirm what many have known for a while - that a lot of Canadian boomers are either taking care of aging parents or children who are still establishing their lives, or both.
There are about 8.6 million boomers in Canada - those people born between 1946 and 1965 who now range in age from 41 to 60. About 69 per cent of boomers still have at least one living parent or parent-in-law and 35 per cent are providing an average of $5,976 and 2,184 hours a year in care to an aging parent. Roughly 60 per cent of boomers are still providing about $3,600 a year in financial support to their children, and ten per cent of boomers who are parents also are providing assistance to their parents.
"Taking care of your parents is nothing new, but we are definitely seeing its effect on boomers' resources as they approach retirement," says Jane Olshewski, Manager of Financial Life Planning at Investors Group. "With adult children taking longer to become self sufficient and aging parents living longer, today's boomers are headed for the perfect generational storm."
While some care-giving boomers are spending an average of nearly $6,000 a year on their parents, financial support is only one aspect of care that boomers are providing. Other include everyday activities such as companionship, transportation to social events, home maintenance and household chores, banking and investment or financial decision-making activities, and ensuring their health care needs are met.
On the other side, 40 per cent of boomers are still paying for their children's post-secondary education. Seventy per cent of boomers have children 19 or older still living at home and burn up mileage on the family vehicle helping them, and twenty per cent of boomers have an adult child living at home who makes no contributions to the household.
All this responsibility can add to up to lots of money, time and, in some cases, stress.
Oddly, only nine per cent of boomer caregivers said their financial commitment to their parents was a source of stress. Nearly half actually said it makes them feel good to provide this support and makes them feel like they are repaying their parents for the time and effort they put into their upbringing.
Instead, the stress was created more by the demands placed on the caregiver's time and emotional resources.
Sixty-two per cent of caregivers believe that their parents expect this type of assistance. Slightly more than half say their parents' emotional demands are a source of stress and 40 per cent say demands on their time are a source of stress.
"Boomers don't mind making these sacrifices, but many people may not be prepared for the volume or the emotional weight of these responsibilities, says Olshewski.”It's important to try for a sense of balance so that you're not sacrificing your own priorities in the long term."
How to spot senior depression TOP
If an older family member or friend becomes depressed, how would you know? Do you know the warning signs that would enable you to spot senior depression in your friends or family members?
Signs of Senior Depression are Different than Younger Adults
Senior depression has proved especially devastating among older adults because the disease has been so misunderstood in that population. Now, a researcher at the University of Rochester Medical Center has identified risk factors associated with senior depression and suicide among older adults, and observed some surprising differences in the way depression manifests in older adults compared to younger adults and children.
Senior Depression Can Be Hard to Spot
These senior depression findings are important because friends, family members, and even care providers might not realize that the signs of senior depression can be different than younger adults, and therefore harder to identify. That lack of understanding is just one of several reasons why older adults may not seek and receive the treatment they need, with sometimes tragic results: the growing problem of geriatric suicide.
“Kids with depression will express feelings of sadness more readily, but older adults may not show or express sadness as much,” said Paul Duberstein, PhD., associate professor of psychiatry and oncology and co-director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide, in a news release.
Senior Depression Often Mistaken for Other Age-Related Problems
Common signs of senior depression include:
- A lack of appetite
- Problems concentrating
These common symptoms are often attributed to the aging process rather than senior depression.
Older adults with depression also tend to stop doing things, according to Duberstein. They might clean less or go to church less frequently. Again, friends and family might not realize the true cause of such changes in behaviour.
Older Adults Less Likely to Seek Treatment for Depression
Duberstein has launched a study to determine just how aware people are of the health and behaviour changes in the seniors they know. The information is crucial, because seniors are less likely to seek treatment for depression on their own.
The stigma of seeking mental health treatment is a bigger factor among seniors, many of whom grew up at a time when having a mental health problem was often considered synonymous with being “crazy” or incompetent. Transportation problems are another issue for some seniors, along with the lack of mental health services that are near primary care services.
“Family can either help or hinder the process of detecting depression and getting treatment for those experiencing symptoms,” said Duberstein, noting that some people have the misconception that senior depression simply comes with age.
Common Problems Can Increase Suicide Risk Among Older Adults
While researchers had linked certain mental disorders, particularly senior depression, to increases in suicide risk, few definitive studies had pinpointed the stressful factors that contribute to suicide risk.
Duberstein found that poor health, family conflict, or money worries were the problems most likely to increase suicide risk in adults age 50-plus. Duberstein published his findings in the journal Psychological Medicine.
The findings are important for people concerned about how to keep their friends and family members safe, and also for clinicians trying to determine the best ways to reduce senior depression and the risk of suicide among older adults.
How to have more effective communication with the elderly TOP
If you have an elderly relative or friend who has moved to a nursing home or assisted living facility, you know that your relationship has changed. Elderly people who are unable to live independently often have a chronic illness or some level of dementia that makes self-care – and communication – difficult.
It is important to remember that while communication with the elderly may be more challenging, it’s worth the effort. By maintaining a loving connection with an elderly person, you honour your relationship, and help to improve that person’s quality of life.
Want more effective communication with the elderly? Keep these tips in mind.
Physical changes can affect communication. Age-related decline in physical abilities can make communication more challenging, and some illnesses make communication more difficult. A hearing loss makes you harder to understand, so be patient and speak more clearly. Be sure you face the person when you talk, and avoid talking while you eat. Check to see if an assistive listening device could improve communication by phone.
Vision loss makes it harder for the elderly person to recognize you, so don’t take it personally.
Some elderly people experience changes in speaking ability, and their voices become weaker, or harder to understand. Be patient when listening, and be aware of when the elderly person gets tired and wants the visit to end.
Some age-related memory loss is normal as people grow older, although people experience different degrees of memory loss. Most often, short-term memory is affected, making it harder for an elderly person to remember recent events. Keep this in mind, and practice patience.
Allow the elderly person to reminisce, and to grieve. When someone lives to be very old, it’s impossible not to experience some feelings of significant loss. The deaths of relatives and friends, losing the ability to work and be independent, changes in health and finances, and being unable to make simple decisions can all affect an elderly person’s self-esteem.
These losses can create sadness, and grieving. Common responses to grieving are depression, social withdrawal, and irritability, so look for these symptoms in the elderly person and seek medical advice or counseling.
Respect the elderly person’s background, knowledge, and values. Because an elderly person’s life experience may be very different from yours, it’s important to let the person express those thoughts and feelings, and to respect them even if you disagree.