Before becoming a caregiver, I didn’t give much thought to being an elder care recipient. I have a husband and two adult daughters, with whom I intend to keep a good relationship so they will want to take care of me if I become too old or feeble to take care of myself.
If you are a widow or widower with no siblings, children or close relatives, who will take care of you? Do you have a close friend whose family will take you in, or will you end up a ward of the state?
I became a caregiver for my god-sister, Gladys, because she is a widow with no siblings, no children and no close family who could take care of her. Because she and I were raised as sisters (despite our age difference) her care became my responsibility and I am glad that I can take care of her. However, this type of relationship is not always the case.
There is a member of my church who has been bed ridden for the past six years. She is in her forties and cannot care for herself. She has a 13 year old daughter who has been helping her mother as much as she can. This lady has siblings but is estranged from her family, so members of our church check on her and try to help out. It’s not easy to help her because she can be very difficult and quite unpleasant. Every time I see this woman I think about how we should value our family and friends because we might need them some day.
According to statistics, there are approximately 50 million family caregivers. Currently, there are 35 million Americans over the age of 65. More than 5 million Americans are over the age of 85. Do you have enough insurance or money saved up for long term care? If not, what are your plans for future care? You may not need it but what if you do?
In addition to thinking through this process:
- Have you talked with family members about care preferences
- Do you have a living will
- Have you given thought to a power of attorney
- Who will help with bills and finances
Fortunately for us, Gladys had her attorney draw up a will, living will and gave me her power of attorney in 1993. I did not need to use it until 2005.
As unpleasant as it may be, these are hard conversations to have and tough decisions to make, but it’s better to do it now before it becomes necessary. When these decisions are necessary, they become emotional decisions and that’s usually not good.
Give it some thought, have some conversations and come up with a plan.