Elderly Care: Children to Your Children: Baby Boomers Face Burdening Their Kids

07/02/2010 09:34 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Wife: "Before I become a burden on my kids, I'm going to take a bottle of pills."
Husband: "Too chancy, I'd go with a couple of guns."

-- a married couple, after caring for two parents with Alzheimer's for three years

This is the type of response I am hearing from an increasing number of middle class baby boomers as they face the prospect of becoming old, enfeebled and a financial and emotional burden on their children.

It may be that they are projecting the burden, drain and resentment they are feeling or have felt towards their own aging parents who have become enfeebled and require nearly round-the-clock care. And knowing how they have felt toward their own parents, they don't want their children to carry the burden of taking care of them and feeling the same way toward them.

It may be prescient of them that knowing how impatient they have been with their own parents and that their Millennial kids have no patience whatsoever, the idea that becoming mentally and physically enfeebled and dependent on these children portends an absolutely horrendous quality of life for both them and their children.

Is there a solution so that baby boomers might go "gently into that good night" instead of taxing their patience-challenged adult children? Most likely what will happen is that when the middle class Millennials grow up and are in the position of having to take care of their elderly baby boomer parents, they will find a way (as their baby boomer parents have) to help pay for their care and delegate their caring to caretakers who still retain God's gift of patience towards those in their care (which is why many a middle class baby boomer declares such caretakers "Godsends").

One highly unlikely alternative is that Millennials will somehow develop patience to calmly follow the admonition of Cicely Saunders, founder of the hospice movement in caring for dying and infirm parents: "Don't just do something, stand there." Why so unlikely? Maybe it's because their baby boomer parents who were the last generation to abandon patience in favor of the race to get more, sooner have been such effective role models.

In closing I am reminded of a quote from Dr. Milton Greenblatt that he spoke in the 1970's:

First we are children to our parents,

then parents to our children,

then parents to our parents,

then children to our children.

But then again that was in a galaxy far, far away and a time long, long ago when patience was not just a virtue, it was actually possible.

And if this is not sobering enough read how Older Americans Greatest Fear is Outliving Their Money.