It’s not news that it has been a rather long and treacherous winter for most in the United States, leaving most people in what I like to call “survival” mode. You know, that kind of numb feeling that leaves you struggling to just get through each day. You have your little meltdowns, but for the most part you march ahead just trying your best because you know Spring is just around the corner. But what if Spring wasn’t around the corner, and you were perpetually stuck in that numb feeling of survival? And what if it was just you that wasn’t getting Spring, and everyone else around you was going on with their life frolicking in the sunshine and the promise of rebirth that the season offers? How would you cope? Well my friends, that’s exactly the situation that a lot of caregivers find themselves in.
As the baby boomer generation begins to age we are seeing an incredible amount of information on preparing for the physical, emotional and financial challenges that aging can bring. This information is incredibly valuable and it has become one of my personal goals to help spread the word. However, I have found that there is one pertinent piece of information missing. Why is it that nobody is addressing the fact that caregivers also experience physical, emotional and financial hardships as well, which leads me to the question, who takes care of the caregiver?
It’s hard enough to open the conversation with aging parents and grandparents about care giving, but even harder to to open the conversation on who will take care of the caregiver. For the aging population there is at least some formula to follow – how much money one may need, multiple types of short and long term care insurance policies, medical directives and other legal documents to obtain. For the caregiver there is no formula, and often no planning. Many are thrust into the role with little to no warning and certainly no plan.
So let’s start this vital conversation! It’s an overwhelming topic, so let’s start small, here are three things you can do now, to care for the caregiver. I invite you all to contribute to the conversation with your tips and insight so we can spread the word and bring awareness to an often forgotten population.
How to Take Care of a Caregiver?
1. Recognize that a caregiver may not ask for help, and this doesn’t mean they don’t need it or want it! When you are in “survival” mode you just need someone to pitch in and help, there is no time to ask and no time explain. Offering an hour of your time to simply do a load of laundry, cook a meal, allow the caregiver some time off, or simply lend a ear can mean a lot to someone who is often isolated.
2. Designate a business manager. The day to day demands of care giving are tough enough, and when the day is finally over (and I might add here that nights can be just as rough), the last thing they need is to sit down and worry about sorting through medical bills, general bills, and other business items. If you are lucky enough to have family willing to pitch in but can’t due to distance, this is a great role they may be able to take on.
3. Help them line up their own legal documents. It’s essential that the caregiver have the necessary documents, such as power of attorney, etc., for themselves as well. You never know when you will need something, but your role as caregiver simply won’t allow you to be physically present to do something as simple as go to the bank.
4. Lastly, most simply, and probably most importantly, be aware of how much time has gone by. If you haven’t heard from someone in your life in this role, a simple email, note or even tweet can brighten a day.
The list doesn’t end here, but it’s a start, and care giving is a marathon. I urge you all to think about a caregiver in your life and pick one of the above, it will give them that little taste of spring they might really need.
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