clear
Monday May 4th, 2015 10:12AM

Growing number of seniors caring for other seniors

By The Associated Press
NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (AP) -- Paul Gregoline lies in bed, awaiting the helper who will get him up, bathed and groomed. He is 92 years old, has Alzheimer's disease and needs a hand with nearly every task the day brings. When the aide arrives, though, he doesn't look so different from the client himself - bald and bespectacled.

"Just a couple of old geezers," jokes Warren Manchess, the 74-year-old caregiver.

As demand for senior services provided by nurses' aides, home health aides and other such workers grows with the aging of baby boomers, so are those professions' employment of other seniors. The new face of America's network of caregivers is increasingly wrinkled.

Among the overall population of direct-care workers, 29 percent are projected to be 55 or older by 2018, up from 22 percent a decade earlier, according to an analysis by the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, or PHI, a New York-based nonprofit advocating for workers caring for the country's elderly and disabled. In some segments of the workforce, including personal and home care aides, those 55 and older are the largest single age demographic.

"I think people are surprised that this workforce is as old as it is," said Abby Marquand, a researcher at PHI. "There's often people who have chronic disease themselves who have to muster up the energy to perform these really physically taxing caregiving needs."

Manchess came out of retirement to work for Home Instead Senior Care after caring for his mother-in-law, who, too, had Alzheimer's and whom he regarded as his hero. The experience, though taxing, inspired his new career.

Three days a week, he arrives at Gregoline's house, giving the retired electrician's wife a needed break. He carefully shaves and dresses his client, prepares breakfast and lunch, cleans the house and quickly remedies any accidents. He does the laundry and swaddles Gregoline in a warm towel from the dryer, reads him the sports page to keep him updated on his beloved Bears and sometimes pulls out dominoes or puzzles to pass the time.

Gregoline is rather sedate this afternoon, relaxing in his favorite chair while occasionally offering glimpses of his trademark wit. Asked if he remembered anything about the Army, he says: "It was a bitch!" Offered the chance to go outside, he responds: "No! I'll freeze my ass off out there!" Describing an abrasive personality of long ago, he offers: "He followed me around like a bad conscience."

Manchess has worked for Gregoline for about a year, and the men are at ease around each other. Past aides to Gregoline have been in their 20s, but Manchess says he thinks his age is an asset.

"Age can be an advantage," he said, pointing to the common conversation points and life experience, including his own health troubles and aches and pains that can come with age. "We hit it off pretty well. Maybe I didn't seem to be too much out of the ordinary."

Around the country, senior service agencies are seeing a burgeoning share of older workers. About one-third of Home Instead's 65,000 caregivers are over 60. Visiting Angels, another in-home care provider, says about 30 percent of its workers are over 50. And at least one network, Seniors Helping Seniors, is built entirely on the model of hiring older caregivers.

Like most occupations, some of the growth in older caregivers is driven by the overall aging of the population and the trend of people working later in life. But with incredibly high rates of turnover and a constant need for more workers, home care agencies have also shown a willingness to hire older people new to the field who have found a tough job market as they try to supplement their retirement income.

The jobs are among the fastest-growing positions in the U.S., but are also notoriously physically demanding, with low pay and high rates of injury. Manchess has had spinal surgery and says he's especially careful when vacuuming. He's not sure how many years he'll be able to continue this work, and he acknowledges it can be tough.

"Halfway through my shift, I'm a little weary myself," he said. "It takes its toll."

Manchess had worked as an Air Force pilot, then in real estate, then as a school bus driver, before becoming a professional caregiver. As Gregoline contentedly nibbles on his ham sandwich, Manchess wraps up his shift, turning reflective when considering his life's careers.

"I think this is about as rewarding, if not more rewarding, than any of them," he said.

© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 4 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 4 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 4 months ago )
U.S. News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 4 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 4 months ago )
Local/State News
Obama again avoids calling 1915 Armenian killings 'genocide'
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will once again stop short of calling the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide, prompting anger and disappointment from those who have been pushing him to ful...
1:00PM ( 1 week ago )
Ex-NFL star Hernandez convicted of murder, sentenced to life
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for a deadly late-night shooting, sealing the d...
8:54PM ( 2 weeks ago )
Clinton kicks off 2016 campaign online, heads next to Iowa
WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton jumped back into presidential politics on Sunday, making a much-awaited announcement she will again seek the White House with a promise to serve as the "champi...
7:56PM ( 3 weeks ago )
Hall, White, Jefferson schools recognized nationally for use of technology
Three school districts in northeast Georgia - Hall, White, and Jefferson - have received national recognition for their use use of innovative technologies. They earned top spots in the Center for Digital Education's and the National School Boards Association's 10th annual Digital School Districts Survey.
By Staff
1:00PM ( 3 weeks ago )
US Capitol lockdown lifted after man fatally shoots himself
WASHINGTON (AP) — A precautionary lockdown of the U.S. Capitol was lifted after about two hours Saturday following a suicide by a man carrying a protest sign.The man died after shooting himself on the...
6:15PM ( 3 weeks ago )