When More Than One Parent Needs Care and Assistance

Providing caregiver assistance to one parent can be a significant endeavor. A significant number of adults in the United States are finding themselves caring not just for one but both parents. If this describes your situation, you may benefit from some basic information about the ins and outs of an adult child providing care and assistance for more than one parent.

Caregiving Is a Vital Public Health Issue

A majority of caregiving assistance in the United States is provided by unpaid family members. More often than not these are the spouses and adult children of people in need of assistance with activities of daily living and some other types of issues. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, have concluded that caregiving is a very important public health issue. Caregiving affects the nature and quality of life for millions of people across the United States. 

According to the CDC, caregivers in this day and age are providing people with a large swath of different issues. These include:

  • Social matters
  • Health issues
  • Emotional support
  • Activities of daily living:
    • Bathing
    • Grooming
    • Dressing
    • Paying bills
    • Housekeeping
    • Meal preparation
    • Transportation

According to the CDC:

Caregivers can be unpaid family members or friends or paid caregivers. Informal or unpaid caregivers are the backbone of long-term care provided in people’s homes. In particular, middle-aged and older adults provide a substantial portion of this care in the US, as they care for children, parents or spouses.

Caregiving can affect the caregiver’s life in a myriad of ways including his/her ability to work, engage in social interactions and relationships, and maintain good physical and mental health. Caregiving also can bring great satisfaction and strengthen relationships, thus enhancing the caregivers’ quality of life. As the population ages and disability worsens, it is critical to understand the physical and mental health burden on caregivers, the range of tasks caregivers may perform, and the societal and economic impacts of long-term chronic diseases or disability.

Essential Facts and Stats About Caregiving in the United States

Before digging a bit deeper into a fuller discussion of caring for more than one parent, some basic facts and statistics associated with caregiving in the country are helpful:

  • Over 22 percent of adults in the United States have provided care or assistance to a family member or friend in the past month
  • Over 24 percent of adults between the ages of 45 to 64 are caregivers
  • Almost 19 percent of adults 65 and older are caregivers
  • Over 25 percent of women are caregivers
  • Almost 19 percent of all caregivers are men
  • 23 percent of White Americans are caregivers
  • Over 24 percent of Black Americans are caregivers
  • Almost 18 percent of Latinos are caregivers
  • Just over 10 percent of Asians and Pacific Islanders are caregivers
  • More than 53 percent of caregivers have provided care and assistance for over 24 months
  • Over 31 percent of caregivers provide 20 or more hours a week to care and assistance
  • Approaching 11 percent of caregivers provide assistance to family members or friends with dementia or some other form of cognitive impairment

Preparing to Care For and Assist More Than One Parent

The CDC has developed a list of strategies that should be employed before an individual begins the process of caregiving for more than one parent. These tactics are:

  • Increase messaging that emphasizes both the important role of caregivers and the importance of maintaining caregivers’ health and well-being, especially when a caregiver provides assistance to more than one person.
  • Educate the public about the importance of caregiving before a person begins assisting someone else. 
  • Educate a person on the resources and supports available to him or her when it comes to caregiving for more than one person.
  • Educate healthcare providers to be mindful of the health risks for caregivers.
  • Encourage caregivers’ use of available information and tools, and make referrals to supportive programs and services.
  • Evaluate caregiver training and support programs to determine program accessibility, effectiveness, and impact.
  • Estimate the gap between workforce capacity and anticipated demand for services to support people with dementia and disability and their caregivers.
  • Increase awareness of and access to evidence-based programs and services that can help caregivers and care recipients and increase access to these programs and services.
  • Encourage caregivers to get regular check-ups, use preventive services and engage in self-care to maintain health.

Tips for Caring for More Than One Adult

The AARP and other advocacy organizations have developed a list of tips to consider when you find yourself facing the prospect of caring for more than parent. 

  • Learn to differentiate between a parent who has the most pressing needs and a parent who would simply appreciate more companionship or attention. 
  • Investigate eldercare resources that can help lighten your workload. You alone cannot be responsible for meeting multiple seniors’ complex needs. Our loved ones often depend on us for everything from companionship and hands-on care to transportation and housekeeping. The truth is that all these tasks can be outsourced to other people.
  • Delegate tasks to other family members and friends. 
  • Respect your limits and start setting boundaries early. 
  • “Healthy” people in your life deserve your time and your attention, too. This includes your own children, your significant other, close friends, and yourself. 
  • Take and spend time on self-care on a regular and recurring basis.
  • Ask for training from reputable organizations that now provide this type of support and assistance to caregivers, including caregivers assisting more than one parent.

In the grand scheme of things, you are not invincible. Caring for two parents can prove to be an overwhelming task, even for a person experienced in caretaking and with the best of intentions. For this reason, and has been referenced elsewhere in this article, you definitely do want to consider seeking additional professional assistance. Even taking advantage of the services of a homecare aide for only a day or two a week can prove invaluable.

Bear in mind that you may reach the time at which your parents need more than what you can provide in the way of care, even if that is supplemented by assistance from an in-home care aide. In others words, the time may come at which one or both of your parents may need to transition to an assisted living community or into some other type of long-term care setting.