Aging loved ones can present difficult decisions.
How much care do they need? Are they able to stay in their home? Can in-home assistance be provided? Can their needs be met by loved ones, or do you need to hire a professional? Can you even afford professional help?
These, and myriad other questions, confront more and more people as a rapidly aging population and stagnant incomes collide, and, for many, the decision is to care for loved ones themselves.
"As we cut services, people aren't going to be caregivers by choice," Long Term Care Director for Experience Inc. Beverly Mowrey, who is a caregiver for her mother, said. "We're entering an era of forced caregiving. As the baby boomers age, the system is going to strain. I think we're going to need more support groups as the baby boomers age."
"Most of the state has a huge population of the elderly," Experience Inc. Executive Director Farley Wright, who cares for his in-laws, said.
"We're transitioning into the needy ourselves," Former Family Services of Warren County Executive Director Gary Lester, who cares for his father, pointed out, referring to aging individuals who also take care of loved ones.
As these factors meet, Wright said, caregiving is beginning to underpin our society.
"Caregiving is vital to the whole system," Wright said. "If that collapses, I don't know what anybody will do. It really is integral to the whole system."
Caregiving issues are also growing beyond just the bounds of the organizations designated to deal with them's purview. According to Wright, other entities are beginning to deal with caregiving, opening a chance for organizations like Experience Inc., in its capacity as the Warren County Area Agency on Aging, new partnerships.
"The other thing is churches," he said. "They already run some (caregiver support) groups. We're trying to reach out to the churches and do the same thing, maybe, with the municipalities."
Whether the decision to care for a loved one is based on preference or fiscal reality, it can change the dynamics of a family profoundly.
"It redefines relationships with siblings and whoever else," Wright noted, 'We're going to keep so and so out of a nursing home as long as possible.' and a lot of people say, 'Great, as long as you're doing it.'"
"Often the sibling don't want to have a discussion of, 'What do we do from here?'," Mowrey added.
"The conversation that need to happen is, kind of, what's the end point?" Wright said. "At what point do we do something else?"
Caregivers also present unique employee-employer relationships.
"It's important that employers understand," Wright said. "The cost to the individual, to society, even to the employer is enormous not to accommodate caregivers."
"Employees aren't focused on their jobs if they're worried about what's happening at home," Lester pointed out.
According to Mowrey, what gets lost in the discussion is often the most important thing to remember.
"They're human being," she pointed out. "People tend to forget that. They're somebody's sibling, somebody's spouse, somebody's parent."