Caregiving Comes Easy

I have a friend, who quickly turned into one of my consumers when her dad got sick, and she told me she loved caring for her 86-year-old father who was transitioning out. I actually lost words when she told me that. I had only heard a caregiver say that maybe one or two other times. 

My friend was eager to take on the role of caregiver for her father. She had at least a hundred questions for me. She wanted to know the best hospital, the best doctor, the best in-home services…you name it, she was game to learn it. Caregiving for a loved one can be very involved depending on how the person is aging out. It can be graceful and comfortable for the individual. It can also be difficult. The more everyone communicates about their wishes the better chance they have at planning means and a solid support system to execute their wishes. 

Unfortunately, the aging process isn’t roses and sunshine for everyone. In fact, I’d say a large majority of middle class seniors cannot afford the luxuries of a comfortable end of life process. I know, Debbie Downer again. I mean, who would have thought dressing, bathing and toileting would be considered a luxury during end of life? The reality is this. We age and become frail, but the basic needs of human autonomy still remain. The activities of daily living must still be met no matter how sick or unwell. 

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I help people during some of the more dire situations. Many seniors and their caregivers I work with are functioning under high stress. I speak to consumers and their family members who need resolutions quick while still being able to manage daily tasks and responsibilities. Most times the individual has had a catastrophic health event and the caregiver is left to care for their loved one without any training or guidance. 

Let’s face it, we are living in this sandwich generation where almost four generations are living parallel lives. That means the adult child is not only working, but may have children (or even grandchildren) of their own they have responsibility for on top of caring for their aging parent. A lot of times seniors do not think about aging out, or the high costs associated with just living longer. In-home services can cost around $20 (USD) an hour. The basic care offered through social services is around two hours, two times a week. That is approximately $320 (USD) out-of-pocket for one month of basic in-home care. Say a parent needs more than 16 hours a week care. Guess who makes up the time or costs otherwise? 

If you chose the caregiver you’re absolutely right!

I speak to a lot of people who are the primary caregiver to their parent(s) and they always ask, can’t they just go into a nursing home?? I say, No. No they cannot just go into a nursing home. It’s not that simple. I wish it were. But, then again, no I don’t. An assisted living or nursing facility are usually the last resort for people transitioning out. Ideally, the senior would have saved enough throughout their lives to accumulate both social security and a pension or IRA type of fund to pay for in-home services so they can be comfortable during this time. 

I hear nursing home horror stories usually involving roaches, under-staffed wards and viral sickness. Not a pretty picture for an aging loved one. I personally advocate for seniors staying in their home for as long as possible. The crazy thing is you (or the person aging) need to have money to send a loved one to a facility. Assisted living facilities and/or nursing homes are not cheap (or free). Hence the 40 plus million of unidentified caregivers living in the U.S. alone making up the difference in cost.  

I cannot speak for other countries other than I know aging and caregiver strain are both global trends. The best thing families can do is communicate how they want to age in place. Even friends can help get information for services or support systems. Caregiving is one of the hardest unpaid jobs out there. It’s a job that anyone can get; yet, the reward is known to be minimal. 

I’m curious to see the upcoming merger between aging and caregiving costs alongside student loan debt.

 

-Andy

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