Illinois elder neglect and abuse have been public issues for decades. However, the concerns about the prevalence of mistreatment of the elderly may actually be growing, mostly for demographic reasons. Last year marked the first one where the oldest “Baby Boomers” (the generational spike in childbirths after World War II) began to retire. For the next two decades we will see a steady wave of retirees and, eventually, massive increases in the need for long-term care. This trend is often referred to as the “graying” of the American public.
Each Chicago nursing home neglect lawyer at our firm appreciates that we need to consider and plan for the effect of this demographics shift now. Otherwise we risk sliding into an untenable situation that will no doubt be rife with increased instances of elder abuse and neglect. As a CNN story this week explained, the aging of our community means that increased attention needs to be placed on caregivers-both the good and the bad. Caregivers take many shapes and sizes. Often they are close family members of the senior who either move their relatives in with them or visit the senior’s home on a steady basis. In other cases they might be at-home care workers who travel to ensure that the individual is taken care of and allowed to remain as independent as possible. Still other caregivers are employed by nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for seniors who have particular vulnerabilities and close observation.
While our Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers spend most of our time discussing the “bad apples” of the group and the tragic stories of mistreatment, this should not be taken as a sign that we fail to recognize the amazing work done by so many elder caregivers in so many different situations. For example, the CNN story explained how one woman decided to take her father out of a nursing home several years ago and now provides the care he needs at her own home-while still holding down a full-time job. Her father has suffered a serious of health set-backs, having experienced three strokes, a diabetes diagnosis, renal disease, and kidney failure. Of course, with all of these ailments he requires an extensive list of daily medications and dialysis three times a week.
Many adult children are in similar situations. Many more will be there in the years ahead as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) suggests that the number of Americans in retirement will double by 2030. Many of these individuals will eventually need caregivers. It remains unclear if there will be enough support for those caregivers to avoid chronic cases of maltreatment. A newly released study DHHS suggests that we may be very ill prepared. Not only did the DHHS study find elder care options were lacking, but those who were already providing care were found to face much higher levels of stress than other community members. Those caregivers are of poorer health and are more likely to engage in unhealthy behavior to relieve the stress. More than half of caregivers admitted feeling overwhelmed by their task.
It is important for caregivers to themselves remember that they cannot help others unless they first are healthy themselves. As one expert noted, “It’s easy to neglect yourself when you try to be all things to everyone else, but something has to give and it catches up with you.”
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