Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Poll: More Stress in Caring for Spouse Than Parent

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Poll: More Stress in Caring for Spouse Than Parent

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * More Americans may wind up helping Mom as she gets older, but a new poll shows the most stressful kind of caregiving is for a frail spouse.

The population is rapidly aging, but people aren't doing much to get ready even though government figures show nearly 7 in 10 Americans will need long-term care at some point after they reach age 65.

In fact, people 40 and over are more likely to discuss their funeral plans than their preferences for assistance with day-to-day living as they get older, according to the poll by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

FIVE FINDINGS FROM THE POLL

Effect on families * Half of people 40 and older already have been caregivers to relatives or friends. Six in 10 have provided care to a parent, mostly a mother, while 14 percent have cared for a spouse or partner.

Overwhelmingly, caregivers called it a positive experience. But it's also incredibly difficult, especially for spouses. While 7 in 10 who cared for a spouse said their relationship grew stronger as a result, nearly two-thirds said it caused stress in their family compared with about half among those who cared for a parent.

It's not just an emotional challenge but a physical one: The average age of spouse caregivers was 67, compared to 58 for people who have cared for a parent.

Virginia Brumley, 79, said caring for her husband, Jim, for nearly five years as he suffered from dementia strengthened their bond. But eventually he needed a nursing home because "he was too big for me. He was as helpless as a baby," she said.

Long-term planning * A third of Americans in this age group are deeply concerned that they won't plan enough for the care they'll need in their senior years, and that they'll burden their families.

Yet two-thirds say they've done little or no planning. About 32 percent say they've set aside money to pay for ongoing living assistance; 28 percent have modified their home to make it easier to live in when they're older.

In contrast, two-thirds have disclosed their funeral plans.

Anthony Malen, 86, of Gilroy, Calif., said he and his wife, Eva Mae, who has a variety of health problems, never discussed a plan for caregiving as they got older. …

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