It doesn’t happen often, but from time to time someone will question why Clermont Senior Services helps older adults who have grown children? As one person said to me, “That’s the family’s responsibility. You should only serve people who have no family.”
My answer to this comment is always the same, “Sometimes there is more to the story than meets the eye.”
Recently, a friend called from out of town to discuss the declining health of his Mom and Dad who live in Clermont County. He asked whether Clermont Senior Services might be able to help with their care. Paying for their care was not the issue. The problem was that he lives over a thousand miles away and cannot be here to care for them himself.
My friend is among the thousands, actually tens of thousands, of adult children who are long distance caregivers. Such is the nature of the mobile society we live in today. His situation and the needs of his parents is one example of why we need agencies like Clermont Senior Services. In this case we were able to help his parents by providing meals-on-wheels and transportation for doctor appointments. My friend now has peace of mind, knowing that someone is looking after his Mom and Dad in his absence.
Often, we see adult children who are helping their parents in the evenings and on weekends, but who cannot take off work to care for them during the day.
In these cases we are supplementing, not replacing, the support provided by these family caregivers. The best example of this is our adult day care program, which is serving nearly 60 older adults each day and now has a small waiting list.
Almost all of the participants who attend the adult day care center suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Some have a spouse who cares for them, but many live with one of their children. As one daughter said, “This program is a Godsend. I don’t know what I would do without it. Mom would have to move to a nursing home.”
The activities at the adult day care center are good for the participants, and the center provide a much needed break for the family caregivers, including many who are able to continue working because of this program.
It is a commonly held myth today that adult children do not care for their aging parents as families did a generation or so ago. A study conducted by the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology at the University of California dispels this myth.
The study confirms that members of the Boomer Generation are as likely, if not more so, to care for their aging parents as were earlier generations.
It is true that some adult children neglect their parents. Unfortunately, these are the stories we tend to hear and which foster this myth. It is also true that some families are so overwhelmed with their own life circumstances, just trying to make a living, that they are unable to care for their parents. We are seeing this more and more during these difficult economic times.
The reality is that the majority of the nearly 5,000 older adults we serve each year have little or no family support. Fully half are in the 80s and 90s, and they are getting by on very modest incomes.
One measures of a strong community is that it cares about the needs of its most vulnerable citizens, including frail older adults. Clermont County is such a community, as demonstrated by the fact that its citizens have passed the Senior Services Levy six times since 1982. The Clermont Senior Services Levy will be on the ballot for the seventh time on Nov. 8. This will be a renewal levy which means it will not increase taxes. I’m asking you to plan now to support the Senior Services Levy, and to encourage your family, friends, and neighbors to do so, as well.
If you would like to get involved, such as by putting a sign in your yard this fall, please call and let me know at (513) 724-1255. Your support will be greatly appreciated.
George Brown is the executive director of Clermont Senior Services.