Boomers and Their Parents

Baby Boomers Must Maintain The Quality of Life For Elderly Parents

When you were growing up, your parents were your care givers. They made sure you were safe, well fed, clothed, had medical care and that the money was there for the things you needed. But being a Baby Boomer and caregiver for your elderly mom and dad is about more than just giving you the basics of survival and health.

Now your turn has come to be the care giver for your parents. They need you now as they move into their older years and they are less able to attend to those basic needs of life. But you can assure they are safe and that they have the right food to eat for their diet. You can make sure their clothes are clean and that their medications are there for them every day. You also can look after their finances so there is plenty there to take care of the necessities of life and none is wasted or taken from them by scam artists.

But just as growing up in your family, there is another element of being a care giver and that element can be boiled down to the phrase, quality of life. That is a good phrase because if your childhood had times of joy and happiness because you were part of a loving family, that was because your mom and dad went beyond the physical basics and made your life fun, full of love and laughter and good times that you would remember forever. Also, as a Baby Boomer yourself, you realize that you are not far from retiring and will soon be in the same position.

Perhaps you sit and remember those times with your elderly parents even today. But as you remember those terrific vacations or all the wonderful, Christmases and the many funny things that happened in your family when you were growing up, two people made sure your life was rich and full that way. And those two people are these same two people you are now charged to care for, mom and dad.

So how can you do all you can to enhance the quality of life for your parents in their retirement years? If we can find ways to give them happy times, time of laughter and love, that will be a fitting pay back for the loving household they provided to you all those years. Here are just a few things you can make happen to make their lives happier.

Dinner every week. If you have a routine time when you either come to your parents home and bring dinner or have them to your place to enjoy some family time, that will become a favorite night of the week for your elderly senior citizen.

Lots of family time. The real value of being in the same town as your parents is they can have lots of time with your family. So let them be part of many of the family things you do such as church, school activities and fun outings during the spring and summer as well.

Make the holidays festive. What would the holidays be without Grandma? And if Grandpa makes a good Santa Clause, you are all set.

Make their house a home. As a Baby Boomer caregiver, sometimes the chore of cleaning and maintaining your parent’s apartment falls to you. But don’t just settle for a nice clean look. Dig out those great things that mom used to have on the walls and shelves at home when she had her own place. Try to give that room at the senior retirement center as much like home as possible so she will feel comfortable and happy among the things that mean this is her place and hers alone.

If you can create the same joy, the same fun and the same sense of home for your elderly parent that they were able to create for you and your siblings growing up, then you will have taken one more step toward giving back a little of what was given to you.

But there is a real value to giving your retired parents the same love and good times they gave to you. Laughter and love and happy times are therapeutic and can do a lot for the health and well being of your retired parent. So put that extra creativity you have into really giving to your parents the quality of life they gave to you and they will blossom where they are planted, just you and your siblings have in life.

A majority of Baby Boomers say they are likely to become caregivers for their parents, but only half can name any medications their parents take, a new survey shows.

The survey of 600 adults ages 45 to 65, conducted for the Home Instead Senior Care network, also found:

• 31% don’t know how many medications their parents take.

• 34% don’t know whether their parents have a safe deposit box or where the key is.

• 36% don’t know where their parents’ financial information is located.

Resources are available online

The Administration on Aging ( has emergency readiness lists and publications for older adults and caregivers that were updated after Hurricane Katrina took a heavy toll on New Orleans’ older population. The federal agency advises updating records every two to three months.

The Home Instead Senior Care network’s Senior Emergency Kit is free and available to download ( It includes sheets for listing contacts and phone numbers, medications, allergies and conditions.

Nurse practitioner Mimi Mahon recommends putting health care information on 3-by-5-inch notecards and keeping copies in the medicine cabinet and the car, and encouraging aging parents to carry a copy.

“The majority of caregivers we work with have done no advance planning,” says Jeff Huber, president of Home Instead Senior Care, a company that provides non-medical care services. “It is not important until it’s urgent. So much stress and uncertainty down the road can be prevented.”

Lack of planning can lead to serious complications when decisions need to be made quickly, says palliative care nurse practitioner Mimi Mahon, an associate professor at George Mason University in Virginia. “It’s vitally important to plan ahead and have these conversations with parents, or families can act out of fear and make mistakes when emergencies arise.”

Prescription drugs are of particular concern. In the survey, 49% couldn’t name a single drug their parents took. Ask parents about their medications and, if necessary, do research, experts say. Find out the dose, what it’s for, who prescribed it and why. People 65 and older account for about a third of all medications prescribed in the U.S., according to the National Institutes of Health, and older patients are more likely to have long-term and multiple prescriptions, which could lead to unintentional misuse.

“It’s kind of a never-ending process for caregivers,” says Sandy Markwood, head of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, part of the Department of Health and Human Services. “It gets further complicated when there is more than the family practitioner. A parent might have several specialists. It’s a lot for a caretaker to keep up.”

Markwood says the Administration on Aging, also under HHS, has been encouraging better record-keeping by seniors and stronger communication between seniors and caretakers since Hurricane Katrina. “Then you had a situation when seniors were evacuated without their medications and no one knew what medications they were on,” Markwood says. “Doctors had to start from scratch.”

One must-have answer for caretakers: What drugs can parents go without and which ones must be taken on schedule. For instance, blood pressure and anti-depressant medications cannot be missed, Mahon says.


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