Baby boomers feeling strain of caring for older parents
Web posted at: 7:43 p.m. EDT (2343 GMT)
From Reporter Debby Feyerick
COLLINGSWOOD, New Jersey (CNN) -- Linda Sylvester's days are filled with chores. At 40 years old, she is a baby boomer, wife, mother, child and caregiver -- responsible for three elderly parents, her husband and three teen-age sons.
"I always feel guilty that I don't do enough; I don't go to the nursing home enough; I don't help my mother-in-law enough," she said. "But then I have my kids, and I want to make sure I spend time with them, that's important, and my husband."
Sylvester is a member of the so-called "Sandwich Generation," the largest growing segment of caregivers in the nation. Of the 22 million Americans caring for elderly parents, 40 percent -- like Linda -- also have kids to watch over.
"This statistics really tell us that by the millenium, a 40-year-old couple will be giving care to more older parents than they will school-age children," said Dina Zempsky of the New York City Department of Aging. "That's an absolute flip-flop in our demographics to what we had a generation ago."
Sylvester quit her part-time job as a dental hygienist when the stress and headaches became too much. Her mother, who shares the Sylvester's home, is legally blind. Her father is in a nursing home deteriorating from Alzheimer's disease, and her mother-in-law is at times bedridden with arthritis.
"It's difficult to watch Linda's mother suffer, my mother suffer and Linda suffer watching them suffer," said Linda's husband, Chuck.
Figures show that three out of four caregivers are women, and many work full or part time.
While bosses may emphathize with employees caring for children and aging parents, critics say few businesses offer tangible support, such as special time off to handle the extra duties. Government, they argue, has to step in to make it easier to care for loved ones.
"Tax credits for caring for dependent, older relatives is a great idea," Gail Hunt of the National Alliance for Caregiving said. "Another idea is to have respite services available around the country for people to take breaks from caregiving."
Linda's mother, Joy Donald, said she understands her daughter's situation.
"I feel bad that I have to rely on her, but I had to do this with my mother so I know what she feels," she said.
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