How to Support Aging Relatives

Most people help aging parents with housework and errands, rather than providing financial assistance.

By Emily Brandon
June 12, 2015 | 5:24 p.m. EDT


Many older people start to require assistance with their daily tasks, and adult children often step in to provide this care to their aging parents. A recent Pew Research Center survey of adults in three rapidly aging countries, Germany, Italy and the United States, found that many respondents with at least one parent age 65 or older say their parents need help handling their affairs or caring for themselves, including 25 percent of those in the U.S., 22 percent in Germany and 38 percent in Italy.

The majority of eldercare is provided by family members. Most Americans with an aging parent who needs assistance say they or another family member provided it (75 percent), as do 70 percent of Germans and 73 percent of Italians. Adult children typically do household chores and errands to help their older relatives, rather than providing financial support or personal care. Here are some of the ways working adults are supporting their aging parents:

Running errands. Most adults are more likely to spend time than money helping their parents, the survey of 1,692 adults in the United States, 1,700 in Germany and 1,516 in Italy found. Over half of Americans with an older parent (58 percent) say they have assisted with errands, housework or home repairs in the past year. Individuals in other countries are even more likely to complete errands and repairs for their aging parents, including 68 percent of Germans and 70 percent of Italians. Providing a ride to the doctor’s office or grocery store can be an extremely valuable service to an older relative who can no longer drive. And help with household chores and home maintenance can help to prevent injuries and falls.

Financial assistance. Some adults provide financial help to a parent who is over age 65, including 28 percent of survey respondents in the U.S., 20 percent in Italy and 18 percent Germany. Many adults say they feel a responsibility to provide financial assistance to aging parents when they require it, such as 76 percent of Americans, 87 percent of Italians and 58 percent of Germans. Younger adults under 30 are more likely to feel responsible for helping with a parent’s finances than their older counterparts.

Personal care. Relatively few adults say they provide personal care for their aging parents, such as helping them to bathe or get dressed. Some 14 percent of Americans with a parent age 65 or older say they have helped with daily personal care tasks. This is similar to the 13 percent of Germans who provide personal care for their parents. However, a quarter of Italians say they help their older parents with dressing and bathing.

Paid help. Bringing in personal care aids for older relatives is somewhat rare. Only 13 prevent of Americans say paid help is the main source of care for their aging parents, and even fewer Italians (9 percent) pay specialists to care for their older relatives. However, over a quarter (28 percent) of Germans say their parents rely mostly on paid help.

The adults who help their older parents generally find it to be a worthwhile experience. Over 80 percent of people who provide assistance to their aging parents in all three countries say they find doing so to be rewarding. A third or less of people providing eldercare in each country report that they find caring for their parents to be stressful.

Emily Brandon is the senior editor for Retirement at U.S. News. You can contact her on Twitter @aiming2retire, circle her on Google+ or email her at ebrandon@usnews.com.

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