I have a dear friend, Chris MacLellan, who has always been my “go to” guy on the topic of caregiving.
He’s my “go to” guy on caregiving, not because of his media activities on the topic, but because he’s living the realities of caregiving. His most recent blog details the entry of his partner into hospice and the preparation for what Chris calls, “the final destination.”
Chris is like so many people who have found themselves in the position of being a caregiver to loved ones. Many caregivers find themselves in this position at a time in their lives when they were planning on relaxing and enjoying their retirement. The unexpected nature of being placed into a caregiving role also means that most people have not fully prepared for the mental, physical and financial challenges of being in this new role.
Can you actually plan for being a caregiving? Should you consider planning for being a caregiver?
Fortunately there’s been a wealth of resources for caregivers made available over the past few years. The Internet and organizations such as AARP provide valuable information for caregivers. The most valuable tool when considering this topic is communication and discussing these matters within your own family.
Having ‘the Talk’ between adult children and their aging parents can often provide the basis for what needs to be considered in the caregiving planning process. A source such as PBS even posted some valuable questions to consider during ‘the Talk’ that can help to anticipate the needs of an elderly parent or relative in the family:
- Do I know what my elder’s wishes would be if she or he were unable to make medical decisions?
- Do I know where important documents, such as insurance, wills, or financial statements are located?
- Do I have the authority to take over his or her finances if the elder in my care can no longer manage money?
- Has the elder set up legally binding documents stating his or her wishes about health care decisions?
As the piece says, “Planning ahead is a luxury that many caregivers do not have, but most experienced caregivers say they wish they had started to prepare before facing a crisis.”
Think of situations that you’ve encountered or those of friends, neighbors or loved ones who find themselves in caregiving roles. Most caregiving situations aren’t planned. Often people find themselves in that position and their lives and plans are drastically changed. The questions to ask and resources to use may be available to us, but are we ever really able to plan for the role of being a caregiving?
The other question to ask is whether or not you should consider planning for being a caregiver. For those in situations where a family member has declining health or an aging (or even young) family member has a health situation that requires constant attention, you may be well aware that a caregiver role is in your, or someone else’s future. Hopefully you’re considering the burdens that this will bring for you, your family and the overall finances of the family.
But will the realities of caregiving be something that you’ll actually encounter in your own life?
AARP points out that currently, “30 million households are providing care for an adult over the age of 50 — and that number is expected to double over the next 25 years. For many Americans, life at 40, 50 or even 60 years old will include care for an aging parent or relative.”
We’re in a situation where the world is getting older. Those of us who are younger than our parents or other family members may find ourselves in either the role of caregiver or at least, deciding the caregiving options for that person.
Michael Hodin of the Global Coalition on Aging recognizes this trend as well as the reality that dropping birthrates result in fewer children to take care of aging parents. “Very shortly there will be more of us over 60 than under 15,” he says.
If you’re an aging parent, what have you done to plan for your own caregiving? Have you discussed your needs and concerns with family members? Have you considered the financial implications?
If you haven’t begun to consider the potential realities of caregiving for yourself or your family, I invite you to access the wealth of resources that can assist you (I’ve put together a list of resources that I will continue to update).
I also invite you to read my friend Chris’ blog about his journey through caregiving for his loved one. It’s a real story that shows the balance between the rigors (both physically and financially) related to caregiving and the reality that love has been the driving force behind his caregiving.
As Chris says, “Cancer isn’t winning here. Love is winning here.”