Also, you may feel angry—angry, in large part, because you feel
that you are alone, that you must manage your mother’s or your
father’s care by yourself, perhaps with only grudging assistance
from your siblings.
Fortunately, that is not true. You are not alone. The enterprise
of caring for the elderly has grown prodigiously in the past
few years. Which isn’t surprising. The senior population in the
United States is increasing at an astonishing rate. Some 38.7 million
Americans are now sixty-five or older.1 That population is
expected to more than double in the first half of this century,
from 35 million in 20002 to 88.5 million in 2050.
The fastest growing part of the U.S. population is the very
old, that is, those over eighty-five. That group is projected to
double from 4.6 million in 2002 to 9.6 million in 20304—and
double again to 20.9 million in 2050.
Moreover, it is not just the United States that is experiencing
this huge growth in its elderly population. Aging is truly a global
phenomenon. The population of the United Kingdom and Ireland over
eighty years old has increased by more than 1.1 million between
1981 and 2007.6 People seventy-five and older now constitute 10
percent of the population of Japan.
In 2007, people sixty-five and
older made up 13 percent of Australia’s population; by 2056 those
over sixty-five are expected to constitute 23 percent or more of
the population. In many developing countries, especially those
of Asia and Latin America, the elderly population is expected to
grow by as much as 300 percent by 2025.
An Expanding World of Care Choices
Fortunately, however, a flourishing senior care industry is prepared
to help take care of them. In the United States alone, the
size of the home care market in 2007 was more than $57.6 billion.
10 There are currently about 16,000 certified nursing homes
with some 1.4 million residents.
Also, according to the National
Center for Assisted Living, an additional 1 million seniors live in
up to 38,000 assisted living residences, which provide some help
with daily living but not around-the-clock nursing care. An
even larger group of Americans with long-term health problems,
about 7.6 million of them, remain at home suffering from acute
illness, most of it related to aging. They are supported by a cadre
of 83,000 caregivers, who visit them in their homes, cook meals,
do light housework, and provide companionship.
Among the many others who can be called upon to help the
elderly are 7,600 geriatricians (physicians specializing in the care
of seniors)14 and about 4,400 elder law attorneys. Hundreds of
churches and synagogues across the country now sponsor adult
care centers and other programs to help the elderly.
So, you are not alone. Indeed, you have entered a heavily populated
and complex new world that is changing rapidly. Professionals
ranging from research scientists in their laboratories to
hands-on caregivers at the bedside learn more and more about the
care of the elderly and how to apply those lessons. What you must
do is learn how to find your way through the maze of services
that are available and how to determine which are best for you
and your parent. And you need to be armed with information
to avoid the misunderstandings, deceptions, conflicts of interest,
and misleading information that develop in any industry—the
senior care industry sadly being no exception.