Cost More a Concern than Quality In Future Care for Elderly Parents

Most baby boomers think their aging parents have good options for quality health care when they can no longer look after themselves. But the cost is another matter.

Watch ABC News broadcasts and read USA Today this week for reports in the series, "Role Reversal: Your Aging Parents and You."

Only a third of boomers in this ABC News/USA Today poll think their parents have good choices when it comes to the expense of senior care. That compares with 57 percent who think the alternatives are good in terms of the quality of care, rather than its cost.

Some speak from experience: Four in 10 baby boomers with a living parent (including a stepparent or parent-in law) currently are providing them with some kind of assistance -- more often personal care than financial help. And one in four (27 percent) has a parent living somewhere other than on their own -- in a nursing home or assisted-care facility (12 percent), with them (eight percent) or with another relative (eight percent more).

For many more, issues of elder care may lie ahead: Among all baby boomers -- adults born between 1946 and 1964 -- the vast majority, 73 percent, have a living parent, stepparent or parent-in-law. "Role Reversal: Your Aging Parents and You" is the subject of a network-wide ABC News special the week of June 25.

How many boomers will be called on to help their parents is an open question. Six in 10 currently do not provide ongoing personal care (such as checking in regularly or helping with appointments) or financial assistance for their aging parents. Most in this group, 55 percent, don't think they'll be called upon to provide help in the future.

Concerns about elder care peak among those boomers who do expect to be called on to assist with their parents' care in the future. In this group -- just over a fifth of all boomers -- 72 percent are concerned about their parents' future care, and a third are "very" concerned about it.

By contrast, boomers who are not providing assistance now and don't expect to provide it in the future are much less apt to express concern about the issue -- just 31 percent are concerned, including 13 percent "very" concerned.

Among those who do provide assistance now, there's some associated stress: Just under half, 45 percent, say assisting their parents has caused some stress in their lives. Few of them, nine percent, say it's caused a "great deal" of stress -- although nine percent of nearly 60 million baby boomers with living parents makes for plenty of highly stressed people.

Three in 10 boomers say providing ongoing parental assistance has caused some stress in their relationship with their siblings; others report some stress with their spouse (22 percent), the parent receiving assistance (22 percent) or children (15 percent). Again few, two to 10 percent, report a "great deal" of care-related stress in any of these relationships.

This relative lack of high-level stress likely relates to an absence of major sacrifices in providing parental assistance. A little over a third of boomers providing care say they have not had to make any sacrifices in their own quality of life to do so. Fifty-four percent have made minor sacrifices; again few, 11 percent, have made "major" sacrifices.

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