Baby Boomers as Caregivers

Our life expectancy has changed in here in the US over the decades.  According to the CDC (PDF), in 2006 a woman aged 35, Lyn's age at that time, could look forward to about another 46 years of life.  A woman about Mom's age could look forward to about another 24 years of life.  While we know that Lyn will not live that long, the question I have today is the impact Lyn and her care will have on Mom.

Mom is a Baby Boomer.  The Baby Boomers are currently recognized as the first generation who will care for their parents for as long as they care for their children.  Mom is being hit with being a care provider for a person in their end-stage of life for the second time.

In 1991, after Lyn and I graduated from high school, Grandma needed care and Mom stepped up to fill the need.  Grandma was mostly bed ridden but was still pretty mentally spry for the most part.  Mom and Lyn moved in with Grandma.  Mom took over the daily care for the household in addition to maintaining a full-time job and getting Lyn situated at work as well.  All of the work placed on Mom was incredibly stressful as Grandma became increasingly difficult as well.  Eventually, Grandma required so much care that she required the services of a care facility.

Looking back on it, I believe now that my Grandmother had the symptoms of early stage dementia when Mom and Lyn moved in with her.  Aside from the memory loss for recent events, there were also the personality changes.  Grandma convinced others that Mom neglected her and refused to take her out.  Grandma created conflict, threw items at Lyn and occasionally hallucinated.  None of us thought it was Alzheimer's or anything beyond normal aging since Grandma was 90 when she passed.  Was it Alzheimer's?  We never had Grandma evaluated and are unable to say for sure.  It honestly never occurred to us that it could be Alzheimer's or anything more than just old-age related senility.

Mom oversaw Grandma's care for 10 years before she passed in 2001.  During that time, Mom continued to care for Lyn.  Lyn's care demands at that time were very different than they are today.  Lyn could navigate from home to work using the city bus system.  She maintained a part-time job for 16 years in addition to her social activities and Special Olympics participation.

Unlike most other Baby Boomers who take on care of an elder relative, Mom has not had a break between caring for her children and caring for the elder.  More significantly, she has not had a break between caring the first family member in an end-stage of life and the second.  Mom  has been providing care for a family member continuously since 1969.  There have been years when the demands upon her have been less than they are now, but there has been nonstop need for someone in the family to be cared for daily.

While Caregiver Syndrome is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Mom and other caregivers are at significant risk for exhaustion, guilt or burn-out associated with the continuous care of another person.  Caregiver Syndrome started being discussed openly in about 2007.  Mom is not alone in caring for an loved one after her own retirement or retiring in order to care for a loved one.  That knowledge is small consolation for her or others like her in the face of the challenges they face.


  1. Caregivers are basically ignored by friends & family even if it is untentional. I believe they are afraid they might be asked for some type of support. I do not believe they realize what they are doing and it's easier for caregivers to be put on the back burner. I.E. "we'll stop by or call aother day, when we're not so busy."

  2. Thank you for the comment. I agree. The topic will be addressed in tomorrow's post.


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