Old Parents Need Children Around For Support after Major Health Issues: study

First Posted: Jul 11, 2014 11:59 AM EDT

Researchers say aged adults who suffer a stroke or a debilitating disease impact the residential choices of their children, as they give informal care to the parents.

"This study shows a major health problem of an older person - like a stroke - leads to a significant increase in the family relocation for closer residential proximity between (family members who don't live together)," HwaJung Choi from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor,  and the study lead, told Reuters Health in an email.

Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of disability among the elderly, according to the researchers.

According to findings published in the Journals of Gerontology, Series B, roughly 6000 participant from a retirement and health study were observed. Out of these 699 had their first attack and or other myocardial disorders between 2004 and 2008. Among that group, 90 percent of the respondents had at least one living child, and about one in four lived with a child prior to developing cardiovascular disease.

Just under half lived separately but within 10 miles or so in the same zip code. Six percent of the study subjects lived within a 500 mile distance from their children. People with one spouse dead were more likely to stay near their children or move in with them.

Staying close to elderly parents and providing informal care also keeps them from entering nursing homes, says the study author. Elderly living alone rely on new technological devices like heath monitoring systems for real time communication with their children.

Most Americans prefer to stay alone and carry on as long as possible to avoid being a burden on the family.

"After a major health deterioration of an older family member, some families at a distance might face great financial and non-financial cost because of necessary relocation," she said.

"Entering a nursing home is also something that most people would rather avoid," said Engelman, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to Reuters; she was not a part of the new study. 

The study emphasizes that proper systems should be in place for both the care giver and elderly that need almost round-the-clock help in the form of part-time nursing help or community support.

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