Live-In Caregiving As The New Alternative
Sheila knows firsthand the pressures of caring for an aging parent. The Michigan resident and her three brothers have been caring for their mother, Marlene, who has been diagnosed with dementia. Sheila, who is 60 years old, did not want her last name used in an interview.
Sheila and her three brothers all live within an hour of her mother’s house, but Sheila lives the closest. As the only daughter, Sheila said she ended up doing most of the caregiving, spending each day of the week cooking, cleaning, and helping to bathe her mother.
Once, Sheila mentioned to her brothers how Marlene had not been showering properly. Her younger brother said that he noticed his mother smelled the last time he and his wife visited Marlene. Yet, Sheila said her brothers did not ask if she needed help taking care of their mother. “They just went about their lives,” Sheila said.
Numerous studies show that unpaid caregiving falls disproportionately on women, including those who work outside of the home. At no point was this more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic when women juggled work, caring for their children, and aging parents all at the same time. Family caregivers put their health and well-being at risk when they do not have time—or take time—to care for themselves.
As a result, family caregivers have found themselves in a condition that researchers call “time poverty,” which affects adults regardless of their economic status. Being “time poor” means having too many things to do and not enough time to do them.
Interestingly enough, time poverty disproportionately affects women caregivers who are poor economically, according to Aleksander Tomic, the associate dean for Strategy, Innovation, and Technology in the Woods College of Advancing Studies at Boston College.
“For families that cannot pay for caretakers for children, the elderly or ill in their family, childcare and various appointments can claim an inordinate amount of time,” Tomic told the BBC. “Caregiving tasks are almost always done by women, even if they live with a partner.”
Issues Between Siblings Can Affect Caregiving
Help for women with their caregiving tasks often comes from their siblings. However, whether siblings are willing to pitch in and help care for aging parents depends on a variety of factors, including their relationship with each other and their parents.
However, even though there may not be relationship issues, not all adult children feel comfortable providing personal care to their parents, particularly bathing, dressing, and toileting. What’s more, it may be difficult for siblings to coordinate caregiving schedules, especially when they live distances apart.
Elizabeth B. Miller, the host of the Happy Healthy Caregiver podcast on the Whole Care Network, helps other family caregivers in the same circumstances she was in when she and her siblings were caring for their parents.
Miller, one of six adult children, said she would leave her home in Georgia to help her parents who lived in Florida. At the same time, her husband was caring for his mother who had lung cancer. Miller said they were “losing their minds. It was the hardest part of my life, to date.”
Miller, now a certified caregiving consultant and founder of the Happy Healthy Caregiver online community and blog, said sharing care among her siblings “was like putting together a puzzle.”
Families Choose Live-In Care As An Alternative
Politicians and advocates for seniors and caregivers have discussed how governments and leaders in the non-profit and the private sector could invest money in services to better support older adults and family caregivers.
In Canada, for instance, the discussion has focused on a “campus-of-care-model” that involves using home-care hubs that already exist in facilities for seniors, according to Richard Gotfried, a Member of the Legislative Assembly for Calgary-Fish Creek, in Alberta.
For instance, a senior could get services from a home-care hub by either going to the facility, if they are mobile or getting the service at their home, if seniors are three or six blocks away, said Gotfried, who cared for his father and is currently caring for his in-laws.
Gotfried said he has challenged his former peers in the building industry over moving forward with providing caregiving alternatives. There are so many opportunities for innovation, he said.
Rather than wait for pilot programs or politicians, some seniors and their families have turned to professional live-in caregivers provided by licensed agencies. With live-in care, the caregiver resides in a client’s home to help with daily living activities. A live-in caregiver provides the same types of care and has all the same responsibilities as other home care or home health care workers.
For example, live-in caregivers help seniors with bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting. Besides personal care, live-in caregivers provide transportation to medical appointments and recreational activities, do light housekeeping, prepare meals, shop for groceries, and provide medication reminders. Live-in caregivers also coordinate care with the client’s other providers, such as visiting nurses and physical therapists.
In addition, representatives from the live-in caregiver provider agency visit their clients and live-in caregivers to make sure they have the support they need to help older adults live independently. In this way, seniors can avoid disrupting their lives by moving into an assisted living facility or a nursing home.
Data from AARP’s 2021 “Home and Community Preferences Survey” found that 77 percent of adults 50 and older want to stay in their current residence as long as possible—a number that has been consistent for more than a decade. Two-thirds of survey respondents said they want to have a combination of help from family and paid professionals in their own homes.
Moving away from a home a senior has lived in for years not only takes a toll on seniors but also on their adult children who are usually the ones who have to manage the moving process. Many times, they are not prepared for the task.
Miller said when her father died in 2014, she and her siblings had to make quick decisions about moving their ailing mother from her home and taking care of their mother’s dire financial situation. “It was a nightmare figuring it out,” she said.