If so, then you may know (or should know) that those of us over 50 are in the fastest-growing group going to the doctor’s! We are not only heads or co-heads of households probably with children – and maybe if we’re a bit older – even grandchildren, but we are (and especially we woman) also taking care of our parents, whether near or far. In short – we asked for the right to do it “all,” and now we find ourselves (perhaps to our own dismay?) doing it all! This means spouses, kids, grandkids, probably a job or two just to stay afloat, and then, on top of all that, caring for elder loved ones. Even if they are not all that “loved,” we are caring for them, whether it’s organizing helpful household services or coordinating daily care or even trucking across town every day or so to provide care ourselves. This is driving us -already in or moving toward the “older adult” category to the doctor more than any other age group. What’s taking us there? Stress, of course! Physical and mental. We are the fastest-growing group at risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other age-related illnesses that tend to come on with stress and strain. And I don’t know about you, but that kind of everyday stress and strain over the worries of making sure that people you love are well cared for does not lend itself to dieting or actually, to much moderation of any kind when it comes to self care (or self gratification). When 5pm rolls around, it’s a treat to be able to say the workday is done (though truth be told, it’s never really done for the women I know, including myself), but at least to pretend that there are a few boundaries with a nice glass of wine and a good dinner… well, it just helps the day round out more nicely than rabbit food and a gallon of water!
Did you know that research shows that people who think about, who plan, and who actually prepare for their futures have a better future when that day comes? Studies of older adults indicate that people who have been willing to admit that their future may (is likely to) move beyond those “fun in the sun” days that so many retirement planners sell us into a few years when some care is needed from others end up having healthier longevity. The Baby Boomer cohort is going to be the longest-lived group ever! Some of us will live a long time having denied the fact that our latest years – say into our 90’s and maybe 100’s – will probably not see us windsurfing. In this group, we will find ourselves trying to figure out how to maintain a sense of dignity at the very last minute, maybe with fewer choices for it than we would wish. Some of us will begin to think about this block of time in our latest years and want to make sure than when all that windsurfing comes to an end (if, of course), we will have in place some ideas and mechanisms for keeping our values and voices at the forefront of daily life.
One way to plan for the future is, of course, with life insurance, helping not only you but those around you (see, for example, this website out of the UK: http://www.aviva.co.uk/life/over-50-life-insurance/ .
But then, there is another way too. That other way is to develop some kind of document that can speak for you if and/or when it’s hard for you to do it. It’s hard for the really old-old to speak up and dominate their affairs, even when those around them are loving and well intentioned. I don’t know about you, but I’m already more tired at 62 than I was at 52! I can imagine that at 92 I really won’t want to struggle with other louder voices but that still, I will want my life to remain familiar to me. And that’s why I started CustomElderCare (www.customeldercare.com). Based on my own caregiving experience with my mother, who eventually needed round-the-clock care, I came to understand that if I didn’t find some way to make her values, needs, and preferences known to the wonderful caregivers who came to work with our family, she would virtually disappear into the woodwork despite that fact that the care was (supposed to be) all about her! Ironic, no? I came to realize with great force that she had the right to have her life look familiar to her until the bitter end and that despite all the caregiving experience the workers had, they had never had it with my mother… so how could they know her intimately enough to care for her in a way that kept her life as she knew and wanted it?
Think about it. If you are lucky you will become old, then old-old. Denying old age isn’t going to help anyone, least of all you. Denying that we are, ultimately, never independent but always (more or less) inter-dependent isn’t going to help you plan or prepare for that day “when.” You can do something for yourself, though. You can create a caregiving service manual that someone you trust can hold on to until the day you need it. Over the next years you can tweak it as you see fit, but you will give your family and everyone who loves you a real gift if you tell them now what you want life to look like later. Take the guesswork out of it.
And if you are a caregiver for an elder loved one, you can give him or her that same gift. You can create (maybe even with his/her help) a caregiving service manual that provides all the tips and guidelines that signify “quality of life” to those who care for your loved one. The, you can share the care more confidently – maybe even go to a movie now and then – and when you say goodnight, leaving your loved one in the hands of someone else, you will know that the caregiver has all the information he or she needs to do the “just right” things.
Peace of Mind.
Good Caregiver(r) Workbooks to download with all work materials create manuals at customeldercare.com. Also available, Good Caregiver(r) Handbook, if you want to develop your own materials, and Good Caregiver(r) Toolkit, the “2 in 1” tool (no pc needed) that begins as a workbook and ends as a caregiving manual!
Dominique Moyse Steinberg