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Insight Helps Unlock Reasons Why So Many Families Are Unprepared for Parents’ Aging


Gilbert, Ariz. (August 17, 2021) – The increased desire to age in place will need to be accompanied by a shift in attitudes between adult children and their parents. New insights from SYNERGY® HomeCare show that an “awareness chasm” may exist between adult children and their aging parents, driven by the psychological needs and predispositions of each group.

The leading home care franchise worked with University of Utah Department of Psychiatry Gerontologist Anne Asman, MS, to explore why traditional roles can lead to a communication disconnect that can impact how and when older adults get care. The gap occurs largely because aging adults are “wired” to protect their children who, in turn, are biologically motivated to focus on their own kids.

With 10,000 Americans turning 65 years of age each day according to AARP, families will need to be increasingly engaged in conversations about finances, living arrangements, legal matters and care plans including how and where aging loved ones wish to live.

Older adults and their adult children may avoid discussing care options due to their differing views on the matter. In fact, SYNERGY HomeCare found in a survey of nearly 140 current clients that almost 40% of adult children surveyed felt a strain in their relationships with their aging loved ones throughout the elder care process.

“We’ve witnessed the stressors that adult children face and we wanted to gain insight into those challenges,” said Charlie Young, CEO of SYNERGY HomeCare. “The motivations that aging adults and their children have are different, and along with providing care, we often work to facilitate constructive conversations about current and long-term care options. Our goal is to allow our aging loved ones to have the confidence to live a fuller and happier life.”

Asman worked with SYNERGY HomeCare to help identify these primary factors and exactly how they affect family relationships.

“Adult children and their aging parents will need enhanced communication to better align,” Asman said. “There are psychological reasons why a disconnect exists, largely because older parents want to protect their adult children, who in turn, are focused on their own children and have challenges when role reversal is needed. As more families make decisions on how their older loved ones can age in place, the relationship between adult children and their aging loved ones needs to evolve to prevent delays in providing appropriate care.”

Older Parents Maintain the Need to Protect Their Children

As older parents age, their health can deteriorate but their parental instincts remain as strong as ever. According to Asman, seniors will often downplay their issues or not mention them altogether to avoid becoming a burden to their families.

“Older parents will often attempt to protect their children from difficult or potentially heavy decisions, including discussing their own needs and feelings,” Asman said. “As a result, many things are left unsaid, such as future care plans or talks about finances or advanced directives. This creates a potential disconnect that can be detrimental to everyone’s well-being.”

SYNERGY HomeCare’s client survey found:

  • Nearly 40% of the adult children felt a strain in their relationship with their parents when planning for their future care.
  • 64% of adult children who felt a strain in their relationship with their aging loved one also found it to be at least somewhat difficult to have a conversation about their parents’ future care plans.

Adult Children Naturally Focus on Their Kids:

As adult children build their own families, their main priority is the wellbeing of their spouse and children. This diversion of attention is often why adult children are only aware of their parent’s needs when a crisis occurs.

“Just like our parents focus on our wellbeing, adult children naturally focus on their kids, creating a missing piece in our ability to understand the needs of Mom and Dad,” Asman said. “Adult children – many who are in the Sandwich Generation – are having to expand their focus and deviate from the laws of nature in caring for – and engaging with – their parents before a crisis occurs.  We see this as a positive societal shift in response to the changing demographics.”

SYNERGY HomeCare’s client survey found:

  • 65% of adult respondents were motivated to begin their aging loved ones’ care plans after they noticed a decline and/or a crisis situation occurred.
  • Only about 50% of adult children who responded feel they are well-prepared if something were to happen that would suddenly threaten their parents’ well-being.

Aging Adults Continue Their Role as Teacher and Mentor

Psychologically, most parents of any age inherently want to teach and assist their children in any way possible. This also rings true in how older parents approach the aging process in tandem with their children. As a result, almost 75% of surveyed seniors believe that their adult children/loved ones are more prepared for their own care planning, as compared to the experience of the older respondents.

“Aging is another opportunity for our parents to teach and guide us,” Asman said. “The more they engage and have important conversations and plan together with their kids, they are also preparing the next generation for their own aging process. That’s a great thing and will create a better educated and more aware population, so that more are prepared for their own futures. Ultimately, the aging process is one of the best teaching moments a parent will have.”

SYNERGY HomeCare’s client survey found:

  • Almost 70% of adult children have already started their own aging preparations after doing so with their older loved ones.
  • 56% of respondents found that their aging loved ones’ care planning motivated them to begin their own, along with communicating it to their kids.

The “Awareness Chasm” Exists

While 84% of adult children felt comfortable talking to their parents about wills, trusts and advance directives and 80% of aging loved ones felt similarly, there was a disconnect in staying current and discussing care plans.

SYNERGY HomeCare’s client survey found:

  • More than 80% of adult children reported that they have not discussed or revised their parents’ will, trust, or advanced directive in over two years, despite experts advising families to do so at least once a year.
  • 73% of parents said they had prepared a care plan with their children.
  • 49% of adult children said they wished they had done more planning with their loved ones.
  • 44% of adult children said it was difficult to have conversations about care plans with their parents.

SYNERGY HomeCare conducted an online survey of current clients that elicited nearly 140 responses almost evenly split between those receiving care and their adult children.

For more information on SYNERGY HomeCare and to download a free guide on the “The Top 10 Signs Your Parents May Need Help at Home” visit SYNERGYHomeCare.com.

ABOUT SYNERGY HOMECARE

With over 15 years of brand equity, SYNERGY HomeCare is one of the largest franchisors of home care services with 186 franchisees operating in 383 territories nationwide. The company provides a range of services including non-medical personal care, companion care, and specialized care for individuals who are physically or developmentally disabled, living with chronic health conditions or recovering from illness or surgery. SYNERGY HomeCare helps their clients achieve the highest quality of life and independence attainable.

Media Contact:

David Siroty
Imagine Productions
[email protected]
(908) 337-5865

Heather Reid
SYNERGY HomeCare
[email protected]
(480) 550-9567