Autumn is a season of transformation. Traditionally, it’s the first day when the air is crisp, when deciduous trees put on a show -- with a burst of color — greens transform into yellows, oranges, reds, purples, and browns. It’s a season when we are reminded to let things fall away to make room for reflection on the seasons of our own lives. It’s a season of harvesting the fruits of our labors and taking stock. It’s a time to sharpen our pencils (yellow #2 or electronic) as we send our family members off to school. It’s time for every generation to settle in with hot cocoa, enveloped in their favorite comfy clothes, and a good book- it’s a time to reflect and learn. After the hiatus of the last few years, this autumn many families and friends will gather to celebrate birthdays, time-honored holidays, and traditions. Many families and friends will notice and reflect on the changes the passage of time has made on older family members and friends. Take this time of change to plan for what lies ahead.
“(Autumn’s) golden richness speaks not of the innocence of spring, nor of the power of summer, but of the mellowness and kindly wisdom of approaching age. It knows the limitations of life.” — Lin Yutang, writer and inventor
Commonly, we fail to plan for the inevitable: Mom and Dad will age, probably live much longer than their parents did, and will likely require more specialized care over a longer period of time. Unfortunately, for many families, this combination has caused a perfect storm, pushing families’ budgets and stress levels to the limit. More family caregivers are in the workforce—some 60 percent work full- or part-time in addition to their caregiving responsibilities. This trend will continue, and those who have to pull back face substantial economic risk from loss of income, benefits, contributions to their own
retirement savings, or reduced social security benefits.8
Still, most people don’t have a plan to deal with what’s around the corner much less ten to fifteen years down the road. But then something happens. A father or grandparent becomes ill or can no longer live independently. A mother loses her job because she has had to take too much time off work to assist her aging parents. Something big happens and it’s a wake-up call. If you’re lucky, that wake-up call comes while there is still time to plan. If you’re not so lucky, some profound changes are on the horizon and you’re not well prepared to face them. It’s this latter scenario that adds to the growing collection of nightmare stories that make their way into news headlines.
- Excerpt from "How Not to Tear Your Family Apart"
8 Liz Seegert, “New Data Updates the Economic Value of Family Caregiving,”