WORCESTER, Mass., July 28 /PRNewswire/ -- A new book by Clark University
sociologist Deborah Merrill takes a startling look at the lives of adult
children who care for their frail, elderly parents.
In "Caring for Elderly Parents: Juggling Work, Family, and Caregiving in
Middle and Working Class Families," Merrill profiles 50 adult children who
care for frail parents while working outside the home and caring for their own
families. Unlike any other book on caregiving, Merrill's focuses on how
middle-and working-class families handle the burden of caregiving.
Her research into this segment of caregivers revealed incredible stories
of love, conflict and devotion, told in the caregivers' own words throughout
the book. The adult children Merrill interviewed provided extensive personal
care for one or both elderly parents, such as bathing, feeding and dressing
them, as well as doing housework, cooking and shopping.
"I think what amazed me more than anything was how much these caregivers
were willing to sacrifice," says Merrill, who earned her Ph.D. in sociology at
Brown University. "I would go home at the end of the day and think, 'My life
is so easy.'"
Merrill, whose research in the last several years has focused on
gerontology and family studies, found that most caregivers felt obligated to
keep their parents out of a nursing home for as long as possible, which
inevitably takes its toll on families. A man caring for and living with his
mother, for example, feared that the tension between his wife and mother would
soon end his marriage.
While sad and distressing, this story is not unusual. According to other
researchers, families provide 80 to 90 percent of the overall care of elders,
and between 23 and 32 percent of the work force has elder care
responsibilities. Those numbers will continue to increase, Merrill adds, as
people 85 years of age and older are currently one of the fastest-growing
segments of the nation's population.
Merrill hopes her book will help spur social change that addresses the
needs of caregivers, such as paid leave for working caregivers, increased
adult day-care services and more measures to help the elderly live
independently. A lack of action, she contends will lead to more elders living
at risk, unnecessary nursing-home placements and more overburdened,
overstressed families -- all of which will affect the overall economic and
social health of the nation.
SOURCE Clark University