silver tsunami

Aging.

No I’m not talking about crow’s feet making their home around your eyes or the glorious day you finally retire (at the rate I’m going, that may never get to happen).

I’m talking about really aging. About coming to a point in your life where you just can’t quite take care of yourself. With your kung-fu grip on the tiniest shred of independence, someone else is in charge of your doctor’s visits, your prescriptions, your driving schedule, your meals, your life.

The Alliance for Aging Research reported that baby boomers will start turning 65 this year. 10,000 people will turn 65 every day. Every day. For the next 20 years. In 2030, 19 years from now, one out of every five Americans will 65 years or older – that’s a whopping 72 million.

Why the sudden interest in baby boomer stats?

We all know how I do love old people. And my students regularly remind me of my let’s say, endearing habits that might mirror those of an elderly woman. But what struck me was an ABC News report by Diane Sawyer on caring for aging parents.

Here are a few more stats that I thought were interesting.

Almost 70 percent of caregivers are women, and the constant stress can take 10 years off a caregiver’s life (Family Caregiver Alliance).

Less than three percent of US physicians have had an hour of training in geriatrics

Nearly one-third of Americans ages 57 to 85 take at least five prescription drugs — people with chronic illnesses may take more than 20. Sixty-eight percent of Americans are also taking over-the-counter medicines or supplements, according to a 2008 article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“There are over 100K deaths per year related to polypharmacy and medication misuse and adverse reactions, which brings it to one of the leading causes of death in this country,” said Dr. Barbara Paris, director of geriatrics at Maimonides Medical Center.

 “For every chronic condition, there can be one, two or three drugs that are appropriately recommended. When you get to 10 drugs whether they are over the counter or prescribed there’s almost 100 percent likelihood that there is some sort of drug-drug or drug nutrient interaction.” Dr. Mari Bernard, Dep. Dir. Of National Institute on Aging

Aging is tough. It can be a sad, slow process. One that’s hard to watch. Caregivers work tirelessly, sometimes to their own end, to provide the best life possible for a patient.  Caring for the ones we love is not an easy job. But we love them. So we care for them with all the love we’ve got.

Thank you, Papa for fighting through each day even when you don’t feel like it. Thank you, Mama for nurturing your other half, on the good days and the bad, often at your own expense. Thank you Mom and Dad for being such a strong support system; I hope to one day return the favor.

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