A new demographic of family caregiver is emerging, and it may not be what you think it is. Lynn Feinberg, AARP senior strategic advisor, said, “Caregiving [is] not just a woman’s issue: 40% of caregivers are men, 40% represent multicultural diversity and more millennials are taking on these tasks as well.”5 Older adults are also key providers of family care.6 Grandpa James takes care of Grandma Carolyn, at least for now.
Today’s generations are increasingly mobile. If you live an hour or more away from a person who needs care, consider yourself a long-distance caregiver. How will you identify and evaluate community and local agency resources? As care needs become more evident, you may feel guilty about not being available. If you have the burden of travel added to the other burdens of caregiving, will you become even less available to children, other family members, friends, and coworkers?
“Many long-distance caregivers act as information coordinators, helping aging parents understand the confusing maze of new needs, including home health aides, insurance benefits and claims, and durable medical equipment. Caregiving, no matter where the caregiver lives, is often long-lasting and ever-expanding. For the long-distance caregiver, what may start out as an occasional phone call to share family news can eventually turn into regular phone calls about managing household bills, getting medical information, and arranging for grocery deliveries. What begins as a monthly trip to check on Mom may become a larger project to move her to a new home or nursing facility closer to where you live.”7As we will see, like the grandparent’s daughter Jodi, many caregivers do not acknowledge the increasing burden of their caregiving duties. Others may not recognize the family’s immediate, extended, and long-term care needs.
Grandma Carolyn and Grandpa Jones are retired. We haven’t developed a word to describe the stage when retirement years morph into aging, when family and good friends slowly become dependent and need support. Following the three simple steps is a planning tool to encourage discussing and planning for pre-retirement and for all stages of retirement as well.
Without a plan you may become the presumptive generational caregiver. The first frank conversation you need to have is with yourself. What can you do, and what can you not do?
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