Does Caregiving have Problems? You bet! There are many problems I see every day in my counsel with caregivers.
Basically, you have 4 categories you have to think about:
Aging is Chronic
1) Their Health – you know this is going to decline. She will lose her ability to function. How well are you equipped to be up all night because she sleeps during the day, do her hygiene, fix her meals only to have her tell you she hates your cooking? Not going to the doctor, complaining of pain, won’t exercise, blasting the TV, won’t see friends, or refusing to give you the keys when you tell her it’s time to stop driving? These are things to discuss now.
Losing them before they pass
2) Her mental ability will decline. When this happens she will no longer be able to “complete” her relationship with you or your husband. In other words, do not expect anything back from her, no matter how much you give of your time and life. She is not capable of a give-and-take relationship anymore. If any form of dementia is diagnosed, you will need education and help. She can become uncontrollable and mean, emotionally and verbally to you and your husband. She doesn’t want to slow down; she doesn’t mean to be slow. It’s just what aging does to us.
Lay everything “out on the table”
3) Legal & Financial Help. Hopefully, she has an extra $683 a month hanging around because this is the average cost caregivers spend on their loved ones. Most of my clients do not believe this until I have them start keeping track. Picking up the “little things” at the grocery store, taking time to settle the unpaid medical bills, etc. all add up. Make sure you have a copy of the will and all her assets and talk to her elder law attorney to stay in the loop. If she does not have one, go get one for you and your husband and talk to them about your mom’s estate. You will be blown away by what you DON’T know. If you have siblings, do not expect them to help but be pleasantly surprised when they do. They may offer advice or even criticism, but you must stay your course on what you think is the right decision for her. Unless someone walks in your shoes, they do not understand.
A well-defined exit strategy
4) Living situations. Easy-peasy is great to start with. However, consider your exit strategy down the road. I have seen many a husband become lonely because more and more time is taken up by the aging senior and the wife feels guilty, exhausted, and depressed because she cannot keep up with all the “shoulds” in her life. Keep yourself first and your husband second. Get her consent now that when it is time for her to move, she will go happily and will be able to afford the care. Remember, it takes 31 people in assisted living per week to care for an aging senior. If or, when, this becomes too much, do you and your husband have the fortitude to move her? You will feel guilt. It is normal. It is healthy. It means you care for her. You wouldn’t have guilt if you didn’t care. If she balks at this, it is because she is scared of the unknown. Make sure her facility has a team in place to reassure her and acclimate her. Visit often at first until you are confident this is a healthy and safe environment for her. Keep a team of friends and family on speed dial to call when you need help in all of the above 4 categories. It is best to have at least 3-4 folks in each category ready to help so you do not burn out any one of them too quickly, especially your husband. It’s good of you to do this.
To all the caregivers out there – You are my heroes. I wish I could be there for each and every one of you every step of the way. But since I cannot, here is the book I wrote for you.
It covers everything I talked about here and so much more.