5 min read
It’s time to get honest about aging and why it’s important right now
When we set out to create a new platform for in-home senior care at Herewith, we started by asking what was missing from the conversation around aging and finding support for our older loved ones. To find answers, we talked to real people from all different walks of life.
What we heard was that there’s a lot that people don’t feel comfortable sharing—experiences that make them feel isolated or alone. Even the professionals don't usually talk about “getting old.” But in reality, these subjects have touched all of our lives. So, we started asking questions. Wouldn’t it be better if we talk about the hard stuff, so that we can find a way to make it easier?
Yes, old happens, with all the ups and downs and amazing stories that come along with it. We’re not alone. We’re in this together. We hope that by talking about it, we can find comfort, ease our worries, and find a path forward.
Old is happening
Each of us are brimming with examples of caregiving from our own lives. A mom juggling care for her dad and her kids. A struggle with a loved one’s Dementia diagnosis. A rift in one family, a banding together of another. Stories come pouring forth during conversation, bringing statistics to life.
Online caregiver forums are full of these stories from folks who feel left behind, taking care of a parent while their siblings don’t lift a finger to help. Spouses caring for a partner with Dementia while struggling to manage their own chronic health conditions and emotional wellbeing. The frustration of dealing with a loved one who won’t talk about needing help. And the deeply personal moments of anger tinged with guilt, when a caregiver’s own needs must be put to the side again and again while supporting others.
The need for care is…everywhere. Alongside stories of strength and deep family ties are stories of sleepless nights, frustration with inadequate insurance and bureaucracy, and a desperate need for relief. Family caregivers need their own support throughout the process, because there’s no one-step solution. Providing care for a loved one is a series of conversations, decisions, and transitions.
Old is happening, so we should talk about it, prepare for it. Find a way to lift up the moments of joy and connection, prioritize our relationships and keep going, even when it’s tough.
Why it’s important right now
Getting older isn’t something far away that happens to other people. It’s personal, for each one of us. It’s something that we hope to achieve, something that happens slowly over time. Sometimes, it seems to happen all at once, before we’re fully prepared. At some point, we’ll care for someone older, whom we love, or someone in our community who needs support. At some point we’ll need care, too.
And getting older is happening…more. To more people. “By 2030, 1 in 6 people in the world will be aged 60 years or over. At this time the share of the population aged 60 years and over will increase from 1 billion in 2020 to 1.4 billion. By 2050, the world’s population of people aged 60 years and older will double (2.1 billion).” (World Health Organization. World Report on Aging and Health. Fact Sheet. 2022).
Who will provide care for the increasing number of older adults in the US? Studies show that the numbers of family or unpaid caregivers are rising too.
“Today, more than 1 in 5 Americans (21.3 percent) are caregivers, having provided care to an adult or child with special needs at some time in the past 12 months. This totals an estimated 53.0 million adults in the United States, up from the estimated 43.5 million caregivers in 2015,” according to an in-depth 2020 Report on Caregiving in the U.S., conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP.
Caregiving affects everyone. The same study shares that “caregiving remains an activity that occurs among all generations, racial/ethnic groups, income or educational levels, family types, gender identities, and sexual orientations,” with caregivers typically providing around 24 hours of unpaid care per week, supplemented by additional unpaid care by others in the family or community.
Where does the time for all this care come from? Reduced hours at work, limited availability for social events or self care, less sleep. Leaning on neighbors and family for help. But sometimes, it’s still not enough and we need more help.
“Who will care for the caregivers?”
The AARP report reveals this blunt truth: “As the country continues to age, the need to support caregivers as the cornerstone of society will only become more and more important.”
For us at Herewith, this includes family caregivers as well as professional in-home caregivers. With better access to training, stable job opportunities, and liability insurance, we hope to take a step in the right direction supporting caregivers, inspiring more folks to pursue caregiving not just as a commendable career, but as a viable, livable one too.
We firmly believe that caregivers from all walks of life are needed to meet us where we are—now and in the future. Because when you’re in the midst of tough decisions, planning ahead, aligning with family, taking one day, even one conversation at a time, the right support can make all the difference. Most of all, we want all caregivers to know that there are so many others out there with shared experiences, who can help, who can relate.
Old happens, and it’s time to talk about it.
Source: Caregiving in the US 2020 – an NAC & AARP Research Report
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