This post is dedicated to my fellow family caregivers (and future family caregivers, especially if you have older parents/grandparents/loved ones).
I wanted to share a few lessons and wisdom nuggets I’ve learned that I pray will help you out, but also encourage you. These are things I’ve learned throughout this 11 year caregiver journey I’ve had with my Dad and 4 year caregiver journey I’ve had with my Mom:
1. If you are the primary family caregiver and/or it has been decided that you will be the primary or co-decisionmaker for your loved one, have a conversation with your loved one about becoming their power-of-attorney, and do this sooner versus later. Do this while they are still able to communicate their wishes to you and while they are still mentally and physically capable of knowing what they desire for you to do on their behalf in case they become ill and can’t speak or write, or in a situation where you have to make financial or household/property decisions on their behalf. This will also be helpful to have to take care of all their affairs when they pass away. You will need to get an attorney involved to have the power-of-attorney papers drawn up.
2. When you see that your loved one is forgetting to pay bills or missing bills/payments, have a conversation with them in which you offer to pay bills with them each month or you offer to completely take over paying the bills for them. If it’s decided that you will pay the bills for them, and if you have the power-of-attorney for them already, call or chat with their bill companies and ask them how to either send them the power-of-attorney or if a form needs to be completed and sent with the power-of-attorney so that they can speak to you. (Most companies will not speak to you unless an authorization form or power-of-attorney is on file for your loved one’s account.)
3. After getting the power-of-attorney for your loved one, have a conversation with them about adding yourself as a joint owner/co-owner to your loved one’s bank accounts. It’s a fairly easy process, and this will make things so easy for bill paying on their behalf, payments made to caregivers, and also, for later down the line when they transition and you need access to their bank accounts/finances.
4. Ask your parent/grandparent/loved one if they have long term care insurance. If they don’t, have them to sign up for long term care insurance….ASAP. If your loved one requires personal care services (toileting, showering, medication management, laundry, food prep, etc.) after a sudden or chronic illness, or after hospitalization, and you have to hire an independent caregiver or caregiver service to come to your home and provide these services, Medicare does NOT pay for personal care services provided in the home. (Not sure about Medicaid as my parents’ don’t have it. They might cover this, but check with them to see.) If your loved one does not have long term care insurance, about 90% of the time, you and your family will have to pay out of pocket. However, if your parent/grandparent/loved one is 79 years old or younger, they can still sign up for long term care insurance. You or your loved one will need to talk to your loved one’s insurance provider (United Healthcare, Humana, Blue Cross Blue Shield, etc.) to see if they offer long term care insurance, and if they don’t, you can look at other insurance companies that do offer this coverage to get them signed up.
5. Do not neglect rest and self-care. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of you and your needs first. Then, take care of your loved one and his/her needs.
6. Finally, but most importantly, you are not your loved one’s god. In caregiving, I have learned to release my parents to God, trust God to do the things that I can’t do, and let God be God, in everything concerning them. One day, God told me: “Monique, your Mother was my daughter before she became your Mother. I know how to take care of her in your absence and when you aren’t around. Wherever she is, I will also be with her.” This taught me to release my parents into God’s mighty and capable hands. My caregiving capabilities are limited in comparison to God’s abilities. So I encourage you to pray and ask God for wisdom on what to do in terms of your loved one, do what you are able to do/need to do/can do, but let God take care of the rest. You are not your family member’s savior or deliverer. Only God can play that role.
BONUS: God will let you (and your family) know when it’s time to transition your loved one to a senior community, or a memory care or assisted living facility. I have a wonderful person who helped me out who provides a FREE senior relocation service for families who are seeking help with finding the right facility for their loved one. If you need more info, please email me and I will provide you with that information.