Grandma's home alone and she's not the only one. Many families are struggling with ways to care for their elderly parents. The 85-plus population is the nation's fastest growing age group, with 78 per cent living in their own homes. Most of their caregivers are women, and the majority of them are aged 50 to 64. Of those, 40 per cent still have children living at home. Under the stress of giving care to their older loved ones, they can become mentally and physically exhausted.
As adults age, the roles often reverse and the children suddenly become caregivers. Not all aging parents want or need to live in a nursing home. But living alone can be dangerous. That's why some families are now turning to the so-called "nannies for grannies."
80-year-old Roberta Ware does not want to be home alone. "I can't go out and drive anymore and go anywhere, so they have to come to me," she says.
Frances, a certified nursing assistant, comes to her home every day to share newspaper headlines and other pastimes. "I don't know when I have gotten along so well with someone and had such a good relationship that I have had with Frances," said Ware.
Workers like Frances are in demand. As the number of elderly skyrockets by a third in the next decade, the pool of available caregivers will shrink.
A study prepared by the Institute on Health and Aging at the University of California in San Francisco projects a critical shortage of caregivers in the year 2010. At this time, the ratio of people over 85 to the ratio of available caregivers will be 10 to 1.
As a last resort, Roberta's daughter-in-law Keena Ware turned to an agency, where she found Frances. "Because the only other choice we had was putting her into a home and we just couldn't see doing that," said Ware.
Roberta's insurance covers most of the $14 an hour fee. Besides agencies, other solutions include:
Hospitals rotating their resident doctors through homes.
Hospitals training families to care for elderly patients.
Respite care - A few hours of paid home nursing to give families a rest.
Some employers give flextime to allow for giving care.
Workers can use the Family Medical Leave Act to stay home with an ailing parent for up to 12 weeks.
Some nursing homes provide day care for the elderly.
Agencies can provide paid home health care aides. Insurance policies and Medicare often cover these fees when physical disabilities leave the person homebound
What To Ask When Choosing A Home Health Care Agency
What is the background of your company?
What qualifications, certifications, experience and training do you require?
Are your employees insured and bonded?
Do you conduct an initial home visit?