Are Americans prepared for the increasing numbers of elderly population? In the next century the oldest of old will be the fastest growing population in the nation. According to The AGS Foundation for Health and Aging (2005), the size and character of the elderly in the United States is rapidly changing. Since the 1900 most of the US population was under the age of 65, but this drastically changed over the course of the century. In fact, the senior citizen population grew from 3. 1 million to 33. 2 million from 1900 to 1994.
Furthermore, by the year 2030, “one out of every five Americans will be a senior citizen. ” Our society must prepare to handle the increasing number of elderly that are abandoned by family or have no family to care for them. As a result, the elderly are those who stand to suffer the most due to the lack of proper care. Longer life ps and infertility is creating a serious unbalance in ages. Moreover, with the continual growing numbers of the age group 65 and above, Americans may not be ready to handle the burden that will come with supporting the elderly. Senior Citizen Population is on Brink of Explosion in World and in United States. This shift in the age structure of the world’s population poses challenges to society, families, businesses, health care providers and policymakers to meet the needs of aging individuals” according to the Census Bureau, (2009, Para. 6). To further illustrate the major impact Americans will experience due to the over growing elderly population, the Division of the U. S. Census Bureau published middle- series projections that gives a good demonstration of growth percentages from 1990 to 2050 by race.
Figure 1. 0. Statistics of The Elderly Population Projections of the United States, by Age, Sex, Race, and Hipic Origin The worst is yet to come for the elderly frail as an unbalanced society cannot or will not provide a helping hand. “In fact, while children are projected to still outnumber the older population worldwide in 2050, the under 15 population in the United States is expected to fall below the older population by that date, increasing from 62 million today to 85 million. ” Census Bureau, (2009, par a. ). These shocking numbers should be a wakeup call to our society to prepare for the impact on the financial strain the elderly will poses to their families. Consequently, children or families of the elderly will carry the burdens of making difficult decisions to help or to turn the other cheek and walk away. Moreover it will be the elderly who will suffer the most from being abandoned and forgotten in the care of hospitals, nursing homes, halfway homes, or hospices for someone else to worry about.
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The sad and unfortunate reality of what lurks beneath the decisions to leave frail and aging parents with others is the desire to be free or rid of the responsibility of caring for one’s elderly parents themselves. In time, the once young and viral independent adult who were able to contribute to society, have withering bodies that become sick, disabled, or suffer from decease and are considered too old and too much trouble to deal with. When the elderly are left alone; they experience health risks, mental instability, social isolation, loneliness, and depression (Saul, 1983).
Truly one cannot image something worse than watching an elderly person’s mind slowly deteriorate due to lack of stimulation, emotional support, or love a lonely elderly craves. Typically, dementia or loss of memory sets in to the point that an elderly person cannot remember what happened from one day to the next. Eventually, the despondent elderly becomes sicker, or worse disabled from a fall or a non- curable decease like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, which leads to helplessness, disorientation, bitterness, and anger because they cannot remember or help themselves.
In truth, it can be a rude awakening witnessing one’s parent turn into a different person in what seems like overnight. The wonderful vivacious spirit that one loved about a parent or family member has become this empty shell of a person. Indeed the experience spoken of comes from one who has become the parent of a parent diagnosed with Parkinson’s two years ago, and who knows that any illness or disability can be could be seriously reduced with the proper medical attention, nutrients, and most of all the nurturing love an elderly person earns for. Mind blowing, yet all too true are the statistics piling up in hospitals that have no family to pick them up; or left alone in nursing homes hoping for family to come for them, or worse left alone in their homes with no one to turn to (Pek Yee, 2009). Specifically one such story happened to a friend’s brother in law who lost his mother to a horrible and tragic death when his father died three years ago.
Shortly after his father’s death his mother became distraught and depressed and started visiting him and his family frequently because he lived the closest to her apart from his sisters, so he wanted to help his mother through the pain of her loss. During her visits it seemed his mother was pulling through her depression, but she often had heavy bouts of deep sadness accompanied by anger and hostility. In truth the son and his family experienced mental abused by the mothers enraged hostility; however, his family managed to suppress the desire to lash back at her because they knew she did not live with them permanently.
Eventually, the mother became more despondent and asked her son if she could live with him, so she did not have to live by herself anymore. Although; she did have two other daughters, they both lived in another city and never made an effort to see her or have her come visit them. In spite of the mother’s sadness, the son denied his mother from living with him mainly because he believed her negativity would be too hard to live with. Since, she was in good health her son did not see a reason for her to move in with him because this would add more responsibility for him and definitely create tension for his family.
As a result of the denial, the mother felt rejected, sorrowful, and heartbroken and became detached from everyone and began wondering off from time to time without letting anyone know where she would go. Finally; one day his mother called and said she was going away for a while but again without word of where she planned on going. Sadly and one week later was found face down in a creek dead about 10 miles from her home with only her purse in hand. The authorities who found her said she had been dead for four days and ruled her death a suicide.
In short, they said she probably wondered off in distress and decided to take her life rather than be alone and without someone to care for her. Unfortunately, the son will have to live with knowing he rejected her and the possibility that he caused her to take her life, which can be terrible weight to carry for the rest of one’s life! It stands to reason that children will experience the pain and guilt of knowing either they help their aging parents or resort to disassociation.
In fact, the brutal reality is that children are becoming the parents as their aging parents are vastly becoming the children to support. Indeed the experience of having time and money stripped away from the children who care for their aging parents, along with baring the extra responsibilities of caring for them, all take a toll on a family’s emotional and physical health. At first, one wants to believe that once their elderly parent is placed safely in a nursing home the responsibility of caring for their parent is lifted form them and shifted over to the care workers, but in reality this is not true at all.
To begin with, the parents finances need to be take care of; regular visits to the doctor, supplies like clothes and hygiene products, and most importantly regular checks with the nursing home to make sure the parent or family member is not mistreated. Of course, nursing homes will feed them three meals a day, bath them, administer their medicine routinely, and take care of the everyday task of making sure they do not hurt themselves.
However, if a medical emergency should arise and a family member is not there to help, the nursing home just ships the elderly family member off to the emergency room, for someone more equipped can help them, which can be a horrifying experience if the elderly person is left to go through the experience alone. Typically if an elderly person does not have a family member to pick him or her up at the hospital after they are discharged, the hospital’s social worker will be assigned to place them in State facility or arrange to dropped him or her off at his or her home, even if the elderly person is not equipped to take care of him or herself.
It is no wonder that elderly living alone have higher risks of increasing functional disability and much broader clinical detections of social loneliness and depression (Shu-Chuan, 2004). Thus, both the elderly and their families suffer in some form or another. Once upon a time aging gracefully was respected and adorned, but today aging has become a frightening look at the future and a sad end to one’s youth. Why is becoming old such a scary place to go for so many, perhaps because the awareness people have that they too could end up sick, alone, and abandoned.
A prime example of why people are so afraid would be how our nation’s nursing homes have become a dumping ground for the elderly. One only needs to venture into a States nursing facility to witness what elderly are experiencing. Underneath all the hype that the elderly are well taken care and respected, lays the ugly truth of decreased standards of living conditions. To begin with, elderly are left in their soiled underwear for hours at a time, or sometimes left lying in their beds all day long without food or drink.
If an elderly person is sick and incapable of doing for him or herself, or a family member does not take the time or appropriate measures to stand up for the parent or family member staying in nursing home, terrible things can happen. Moreover, health care providers are increasingly becoming more abusive, neglectful and defiant, which is aiding in destroying the health and the very fabric of our elderly generation. Regretfully the aging frail have no other choice but to submit their selves to whatever care they can receive leaving them helplessly in the hands of retirement or nursing workers who do not care about them.
As time progresses more senior citizens are feeling the aches and pains of growing older and abandonment, but this does not seem to matter because he or she continues to wait patiently and hope someone will come visit or care for them [pic] Figure 2. 0. An Alone and Hopeful Elderly Women Patiently Waits for Someone to Visit Her. Someone needs to care for and help the elderly, despite the implied burdens. In the forefront of people’s mind that have had to give up or change their lives to accommodate the aging parent or family member, there lies a desire to help in some way.
However, if the surface were pulled back underneath would lay admissions of oppressions of too much to bear. Thus, the uglier side of the naked truth is revealed, which is less and less the children of the elderly refuse to take on the responsibility that comes with caring for the elderly. Out of sight, out of mind is all too often the guiltless fall back for families unwilling to help. Surely, someone needs to care for and help the elderly, despite the implied burdens.
Helping the elderly might be burdensome, but life is life regardless of age. Of course, helping the elderly is a heavy burden to some but life is life, regardless of age. With this in mind, it stands to reason that our nation needs to wise up and instill the proper support structure to our badly needed aging society to create balance. So that families need not look at growing old as a scary road to venture down; or aging as a strain or burden, but rather as a gift to be grateful for.
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