ASK PETER: All You Would Like to Know About Senior Care, Dementia, and Alzheimer's Care

Why Home Care has become such an important issue in America?

By Peter DiMaria

Home Care, Senior Care, Alzheimer's Care and Family Caregiving in the Longmeadow News and Enfield Press 

It is with great pleasure that I start this series of articles about the challenges and opportunities of getting older, in this new partnership with the Enfield Press and Longmeadow News. Our objective with this initiative is to provide our community with valuable information to help identify possible illnesses, cope with difficulties and find opportunities to socialize and stay active.

As baby boomers slowly get to retirement age, the number of senior citizens in the US is on the rise: In 2010, there were 40.3 million people aged 65 and above, comprising 13% of the overall population. (This total is 12 times the number it was in 1900 when this group constituted only 4.1% of the population.) By 2050, projections indicate that citizens over 65 will comprise 20.9% of the population, according to the US Census Bureau.

Health care spending will rise significantly

While senior citizens make up an ever-greater proportion of the U.S. population, a range of economic and social shifts will unfold and change American society. For example, total health care spending will rise significantly: In 2010 those 65 and older spent about $18,424 per person annually on personal health care, “about three times more than the average working-age adult and about five times more than the average child,” according to a 2014 study in the journal Health Affairs.

The cost of caring for elderly persons with dementia is also predicted to grow substantially in the coming decades, and Alzheimer’s care alone may exceed $1 trillion annually. A 2013 report from the Congressional Budget Office reviews the implications of providing long-term services and support for older Americans, while the Pew Research Center looks at trends in caregiving, with an emphasis on the “sandwich generation” that is assisting both older children and aging parents.

In 2010, for every 100 people, there were 45 who were younger than age 20 and 22 people aged 65 or older, meaning that there were four and a half workers supporting each older person. As more Baby Boomers turn 65, this ratio is projected to increase dramatically, leaving fewer working people for every older one.

80% of seniors prefer to remain in their own homes. As seniors age, they may need home care assistance in order to live independently.

It was for this reason that I decided to open a home care agency covering North Central Connecticut and Western Massachusetts. Working in home care was a personal decision for me. A while ago, my family went through the whole process of taking care of our loved ones. In all this process, they had one ultimate goal: to stay at home. My family and I had to divide our time between our professional careers, our own children and our role as family caregivers. We became “the sandwich generation”, a term which refers to the many of us who are caught in this dilemma.

If you are going through this, you know how tough it can get. It starts with helping them to do the dishes or the laundry, then grocery shopping. It quickly evolves to a full-time commitment. Suddenly you start giving up your son’s soccer game or your daughter’s lacrosse because your loved ones need you much more. And then comes the stress burnout. You are giving all that you can, but it never seems to be enough.

So, fast forward, many years later, I retired from my successful career in the technology sector. Getting restless, I decided to start a new business. I wanted to do something to help our community, here in Connecticut and Massachusetts. And I realized that we have a huge aging population that needs help, just like my Mom and Dad needed. And that’s why I chose Home Helpers.

With this column, I intend to bring some advice and help those who are going through the same types of problems we had. It is another way of giving back to our community, on the Connecticut/Massachusetts border.