At the age of 60, Jessica Kim’s mother was diagnosed with an infection Pancreas cancer. During the early years of her mother’s illness, Kim’s parents still lived in their New Jersey home. During the visit, Kim found fast-food wrappers scattered throughout the house. Realizing that they were struggling to take care of themselves, she took them to her home in Boston.
“I didn’t think twice about it,” says Kim, who is Korean-American. Her husband, who is also a Korean American, was on the plane as well. Living in a multigenerational home was simply the norm for her growth, as her grandmother lived with their family until she passed away when Kim was in third grade.
But the challenges of caring for a terminally ill parent became heavy, and Kim struggled as he played three children and his career. After 6 months, she quit her job to become a full-time caregiver.
Despite the death of her mother hospice At home for 5 years, Kim’s dad, 84, currently lives with the family. He tried to live alone again after his wife died, but after several accidents and visits to the emergency room, Kim brought him back to her family’s home permanently. She says providing support for her older loved ones to grow up in her place has been an integral part of her family’s values, as it is for many families of many backgrounds.
“How we love, care for, and express each other is rooted in these cultural norms and expectations,” Kim says. “There is no right or wrong, but it is essential to understand the way these cultural values shape our choices if we are to better support caregivers.”
Grieving after her mother’s death, Kim realized there was a huge gap in the caregiving and aging resources available and how easy it was for people to connect with her, and she co-founded the care delivery platform ianacare. “I really thought I was the only one in this situation, and when he’s pushed, you just respond and survive.”
Determining aging in place
The definition of aging in place varies widely, but an article published in 2020 in the journal Innovation in old age He defined the term as “one’s journey to maintain independence in one’s place of residence as well as to participate in one’s community.” This will look different for different families. Aging can be done in a home where the elderly have lived for decades, a new home they have moved into to be closer to the family, or in a multigenerational home.
Most seniors — 88% — say they want to age in their own home, according to the University of Michigan National Survey on Healthy Aging. But it’s not quite that simple, as homes often need to be outfitted with systems and modifications (like bathroom handle bars, wheelchair ramps, or fall-detecting technology) to make this reality safe.
Families face many challenges, especially if they live far from each other. It can be difficult to manage difficult health situations from afar — or even when caring for a loved one in your home.
says Jennifer Molinsky, Ph.D., director of the Housing and Aging Community Project at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Her research focuses on the lack of affordable housing options for adults to bring aging in place. It doesn’t help that the responsibility families face in making this a reality for their loved ones is complicated – and expensive.
The financial reality of caregiving can be challenging. Costs are not only centered around housing or modifying an older person’s home to suit their material needs, but most people require long-term support and services (including health care and meals), which may come from community programs or from the families themselves.
“We call it the double burden of housing and care: can you afford housing and everything else you need?” Molinsky says. A multigenerational life can be one solution, and while it can be rewarding, it also puts a certain financial strain on families.
In 2020, 53 million Americans were providing unpaid care — and nearly half reported financial stress due to caregiving, according to the National Caregiving Alliance (NAC). Six out of 10 working caregivers say their responsibilities at home have affected their career; Half of those who quit their jobs did so to spend more time with loved ones, NAC notes.
Overall, these providers provide the equivalent of $470 billion in unpaid care, reports show. Caregivers have become the invisible backbone of healthcare. For adults to age, we need to respect the role of caregiving,” says Sarita A.
Cultural expectations and a sense of obligation to provide aging in place are driving factors for those who want to make aging in place a reality.
“Although aging is universal, experiences of aging vary from person to person,” Mohanty says. The experience is often different for people of color, who make up 40% of caregivers and are more likely to have lower socioeconomic status, tolerate medical racism and lack access to support services, the Mental Health America website notes. Fewer black and Latino caregivers believe their local area is doing a good job of providing access to resources, such as quality health care or socialization. There is this intersection of racial, ethnic and income issues that we have to take into account when we look at aging in place,” Mohani says.
Furthermore, some families may not find their long-term care options comfortable for loved ones if the facility does not have staff or facilities that share the cultural background of the elderly, and there can be mismatches of everything from food and music to language, he says. Alison Brothers, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Colorado State University. On the other hand, aging in place independently or with a family member, allows people to live in a situation that respects their cultural background.
start the conversation
For families facing these decisions, it is important to start conversations with loved ones so that you can learn about their desires and expectations.
“The data shows that most people don’t make a proactive decision about where to live later in life,” Brothers says. “Often, it is the crisis that forces the elderly to leave their home, such as falls and broken bones, which can be difficult for the individual and their family. It can be devastating to a person’s well-being to leave their home and never return.”
Decisions made in a crisis situation often lead to more regret and family stress.
With families further apart and people living longer with more complex health issues, there may also come a point where you realize that you are no longer willing to support a loved one in aging in place. You will need to open a conversation with your loved one and other family members about the next steps.
One of the most important things families can do is learn about the resources in their area. Finding all the supports needed for seniors can be a complex puzzle, and unfortunately, the onus is on individual families to get the puzzle pieces in place. “It can be hard to know where to start and if someone in your family qualifies for certain benefits,” says Mulinski.
If you are currently helping a loved one get old or will help them in the future, here’s where to start looking:
- District Agency on Aging (AAA): Agencies that coordinate programs that help seniors stay home through programs, such as MealsonWheels.
- Rural Health Information CenterEducation about domestic services and community support for rural residents.
- Senior Access PointsDeveloped by the Colorado State University Extension, the CSU Department of Human Development, Family Studies, and other organizations, this is designed as a resource for local seniors, but Brothers says the website is attracting traffic from people across the United States. Find resources for a variety of aging topics, from legal and financial to mental health, no matter where you live.
- American Council on AgingProvides a resource on how to obtain financial compensation through Medicaid as a provider.
- National Council on Aging: Find resources for seniors and caregivers to maintain independence and age healthy and financially secure.
- Alliance of Family CaregiversA non-profit organization focused on improving the lives of caregivers and those who care for them.