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Divorced Parents May Double the Demands on Caregiving Children

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Instead of leaning on each other in their golden years, divorced parents may lean more heavily on grown children for care and support. Experts say adults whose parents are divorced should be prepared for the extra time and financial demands that  aging and unmarried parents could require.

As long as there are two parents together, they pretty much take care of each other," said Francine Russo, author of They're Your Parents Too!

Married couples can also take advantage of economies of scale when it comes to things like housing or insurance. Single seniors, on the other hand, lack both the emotional and financial support a spouse can provide.

See Also: AARP Caregiving Resource Center >> 

According to Susan Brown, a Bowling Green sociology professor, unmarried older adults are "much more economically vulnerable" than married counterparts.

They're more likely to be poor and to be using public assistance, and they're less likely to have health insurance but more likely to have a disability," Brown told Reuters.

When multiple marriages are involved, the situation could get even more tricky. Adult children may be called on to help care for stepparents as well as biological parents (and if both parents remarried and all parents and stepparents are still living, that's quadruple the caregiving!). Or they may have to share tough caregiving decisions with stepsiblings they hardly know or trust.

See Also: When Parents Move In With Kids >> 

Such issues will only multiply in the coming years. While there are obviously many boomers whose parents are divorced, the numbers are nothing compared with the number of divorced boomers themselves.

Since 1990, the divorce rate of those over 50 has doubled," says Brown. "In 2010, the number of 50-plus divorcees was around 643,000."

According to a study published this spring in  The Gerontologist, one out of three boomers is currently unmarried, and some 60 percent of unmarried boomers are divorced.

See Also: Why Long-Married Couples Split >> 

"As soon as you have an inkling that a divorced parent might need assistance, it definitely requires a family meeting," advises Joy Loverde, author of The Complete Eldercare Planner. "Everyone needs to be there, to open up about any concerns, to start sharing responsibilities. Start talking about it right now; do not wait."

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Photo: Yellow Dog Productions/Getty Images

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