Caregiving: Becoming an Asset versus an Assumption
Family caregiving assumptions that a daughter or son will care for an aging parent are common. But what if you don’t want to be the caregiver?
Or what if you accepted the responsibility and realize that it’s time to move on? Sons, daughters, grandsons, and granddaughters often find themselves in a place where they hate their life but don’t have the confidence to make changes.
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Albert Einstein
Caregivers—are you moving forward or backward? If you maintain your present daily habits what will your physical and mental health, and general well-being look like in one year, three years, or five years? Is caregiving making you sick?
What Does Being an Asset Versus an Assumption Mean?
Caregivers who take care of themselves can be an asset (or a benefit) to elderly parents, grandparents, and others. When you live and manage your life responsibility you have the opportunity to be an objective observer of care situations.
This means that while you may help out, you don’t allow the role of the family caregiver to consume your life. You don’t give up your job or career, marriage, having children, or pursuing education.
Caregiving assumptions in many families place daughters and sons in the role of giving up their lives to become caregivers. Carrying the duty and responsibility of a caregiver is more predominant in some cultures.
Instead of being the assumed caregiver, assert your right to an independent and fulfilling life. Time passes quickly and catches up with everyone sooner or later.
Did you plan to be a caregiver for your parent or loved one? It’s likely your parent assumed that you would provide care and support.
Surprise! My guess is that mom or dad didn’t ask, and here you are—a caregiver for a parent or another loved one feeling guilty or even angry that your parent expects more than you can offer.
Caregivers Fail to Prioritize Their Needs
Caregivers score low when prioritizing their own needs. Caregivers include not only family such as husbands and wives, or brothers and sisters, but also professional caregivers who provide services.
Professional caregivers who serve the elderly include attorneys, CPAs, physicians, other medical professionals, care community staff, hospital staff, in-home caregivers, and a long list of other individuals who support family caregivers and care recipients. Many of these individuals have a paid job as a caregiver and commit even more hours to caring for family members outside of a paid job.
There are No Fairytale Endings
It’s a common belief that we live in a bubble where we will live happily forever until some surprising event occurs to deliver a dose of reality. Based on my experience, life rarely has a fairytale ending unless one takes action to create positive events.
Caregiving assumptions can be that by giving oneself to care for an elderly parent or grandparent that there will be some future reward in heaven or karmically. While this can be true, individuals possess choice.
Choices to give up a job, trade time for caregiving activities instead of time with friends or participating in social activities, or not having time to date or pursue marriage. While many individuals say they have no choice, these are all choices.
There is hope for a better outcome if we choose to plan for the future and be realistic in considering the inevitable which is that the health of loved ones will continue to decline and the caregivers will go on with life.
Many caregivers, after giving up their lives feel at a loss about how to start over, sometimes in middle age or in retirement to make new friends, find new interests, and repair damage to their health as a result of self-neglect.
Self-Sufficiency Makes It Possible to Help Others
I have a colleague who changed his career to become a financial planner. His perspective is that we are all a very important asset—to someone—and that we must plan for and protect this asset (ourselves).
Rather than being solely focused on money and investing, the focus of this financial planner is explaining to a client that he or she is an asset—a major asset. His focus is on protecting the asset (the client) by discussing the realities of life that may include disability, and that will include long-term care planning, the likelihood of becoming a care recipient, and the reality of life which is death.
Caregivers Become Sick Too
How might physical disability or ill health affect your family who is dependent on you for income and support if you are a caregiver? What if you died suddenly?
A colleague of mine recently went on a scuba diving adventure from which he did not return. A close friend of mine died of cancer. As we age, these experiences become common and our mortality apparent. Anything can happen at any time.
Caregiving assumptions that we will always be the caregiver or be available for others can be faulty.
If you are a caregiver how did your parent or family member’s lack of planning for disability or poor health affect you as a caregiver or the effect quality of care that your loved one receives?
Savings, investments, and different types of insurance to support care makes the difference between receiving good care and substandard care. This exchange of information should serve as a reality check, as an early warning for you to pay attention—now! Protect yourself and your family.
If you have not taken steps to plan financially for health, disability, or care needs the time is now. These practical issues are not regularly discussed in families which is why sons or daughters or grandchildren feel obligated to become caregivers.
Emotions Versus the Facts of Life
Families focus on emotions versus practicalities. If your parents did not approach life in a realistic fashion then they are more likely to play on emotional factors to influence their children to provide care.
Women – pay attention!
The statistics show that more women than men live in nursing homes at the end of life on public assistance called Medicaid because the family’s entire financial resources were spent on the care of the husband who (if statistics proved accurate) died before the wife.
Women care for their entire lives by raising children, caring for parents, and a spouse, and in the end have no one to care for them and no money to pay for care. It is important not to rely on your children or others, especially if you don’t have children, to care for you.
Professionals exist to fill the roles of medical power of attorney, financial power of attorney, and personal representative of your estate.
The Burden on Family Caregivers
Don’t assume or place the financial burden on your family to care for you. Move forward and plan today for the unexpected and eventual costs of care.
Many individuals lack the expertise to plan financially or to investigate insurance to meet our needs. Find a financial planner, a life and health insurance agent, and a care manager or caregiving expert to form a team to help you plan to be an asset to your family.
Avoid making caregiving assumptions that your children or others will care for you. Make a plan to care for yourself by preparing financially and healthwise for the future.
©2017, 2022 Pamela D. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.