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30 Years Later - NY "Boomers" Doing Double-Duty Caring for Elders

September 30, 2009

NEW YORK - An unexpected consequence of the spike in divorce rates in the 1970s is that today, many people now have four - or more - elderly parents who need time, care and resources.

At the New York State Office for the Aging, Director Michael Burgess confirms that the divorces of 30 years ago have resulted in more in-laws and stepparents in many families. To further complicate things, Burgess adds, the families are spread out geographically, and they're less traditional in their makeup, too.

"The baby boomers are getting hit with this, because families just have many different connections; and we also hear it from the gay and lesbian community, about the difficulties of their caregiving situations with their families."

Burgess says New Yorkers should be aware that there are respite programs available to give them a break from caring for elders. They can be located online at www.aging.ny.gov. Right now, he says, two million New Yorkers spend at least part of the day as caregivers.

The figure doesn't surprise Catherine Tompkins, a professor of social work at George Mason University who specializes in elder care. She says social workers are often an untapped resource for help, particularly when care must cross state lines.

"Someone in California may need some help in Virginia and so, what I would do as a social worker, is talk to that caregiver in California and connect them with somebody at the Area Agency on Aging."

Social workers help seniors with a variety of issues, she explains, including advance planning for care, Alzheimer's disease and dementia issues, long-term care and nutrition - whatever might be necessary to keep them healthy and fulfilled.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY