Can the family care for the elderly?

Elderly care is unanimously seen as family care all around the world. It is a tradition that people expect, which is to be taken care of by family members as they age. It does not however outline other aspects of geriatric caregiving, skills, economic compensation, mental health for all parties involved, and many others. Elderly care is expensive for many if they had to hire outside help or have people at home help them. Both cost money, one is paid for, the other free and the caregiving crisis can hit both. Elderly care is not standardized, it varies in multiple ways. Elderly care is not easy, it is one of the toughest jobs on earth and the risks and benefits must both be accounted for. 

Stating the above, care provided by family is still popular and considered a norm. Even in traditional households, hiring an external caregiver bears a stigma, of lack of concern or respect or breaking of culture and so on. 

The real question posed is whether family care for the elderly is the right decision, appropriate and adequate to keep the senior healthy, safe, and secure preventing all harm. 

Having seen many such scenarios of debate, crisis, concerns, stigma through my career as a geriatric physician, decided to write some pros and cons of family care in a special order

Here are the pros of family care for the elderly: 

  1. No oversight needed, as caregiver is a family member abreast with family culture and heritage.
  2. Safety and security are not concerns. 
  3. Stigma avoided and everyone feels accepted by the community at large. 
  4. Choices about food, care can be personally tailored without additional costs and expenses. 
  5. People can take turns if living in a multigenerational family. 
  6. The future generations can learn about what to expect as their own parents age. 
  7. Family dynamics remains stable and people do not have to adjust to new people coming to provide care. 
  8. Elderly feel at home and are happy they can live to their end amongst their own kith and kin. 
  9. Financially it is much economical and puts no pressure about paying someone else. 
  10. The feeling of the ability to serve our elderly who once cared for us cannot be understated. 

Here are the cons of family care for the elderly: 

  1. Economical burdens, unknown job status, dwindling of financial savings. 
  2. Afraid how the society will address their decisions if they did not do a good job. 
  3. Need for oversight, time, care management, onboarding with choices as preferred by the elderly, care needed and so on if multiple family members and extended family become caregivers.
  4. Elderly feel they have been abandoned or not respected, causing friction between family members, depending on their relationship and care they received. 
  5.  Mental health concerns in family, including the elderly through stress of caregiving , finances etc
  6. Inability of caregivers to lead their lives to the fullest, as if their lives were not worth and sacrificing oneself to uphold generational caregiving.
  7. Mistakes in caregiving with no training, causing harm than bringing healthy aging to the elderly. 
  8. Generational communication gap, especially grandchildren and grandparents.
  9. Inability to work on own family values, leading to challenges, like separation, divorce etc amongst caregiver families. 
  10. Lack of supportive services and oversight to help manage difficult situations in caregiving, lack of community.

As hard as it can be, there are answers to each situation, the problem is where to find them, how to find them, and when to seek them. No answer is right or wrong. Health Education is pivotal to good and great geriatric care. While there may be many answers, the question lies in whether we accomplished our goals in the best way possible. We look forward to any thoughts on this, thank you for reading our blogs, until then, wishing all caregivers for their support.

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