To quote George Elliot, “What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other?” The basic drive to nurture manifests in the care and development of our children and friends. But what happens when our parents have care needs such that they become our children? Women of all ages and ethnicities are major providers of long-term care in this country. Eventually, they may have long-term care needs of their own. It is well documented that women tend to live longer than men, tend to outlive their spouses, and generally have less assets in retirement savings. Additionally, the substantial high cost of providing for someone’s care needs and the demands on a caregivers’ time and health are, in many cases, immeasurable. The only relief from the negative side effects attached to caregiving is to plan in advance. In our story of the Jones family, lessons learned resonate with Jodi, the caregiver, as she engages her family to create a plan so when the parent/child equation becomes upside down, they are generationally prepared.
“First, I want to compliment both of you for how well
you handled yourselves as part of your grandparents’
Care Planning Team. They are adjusting to having help
for Grandma, and you know Grandpa; he is controlling
every detail of her care.” Jackson pauses while his children
brush off the compliment but beaming faces say
Jodi puts her hand on Jackson’s arm. “Now it’s our turn.”
Panic engulfs Erik’s and Nicole’s faces. They think they
are about to hear that one of their parents has been diagnosed
with something requiring extended care or worse.
Jodi continues, “Oh dear, I see I need to explain. One
of our biggest concerns is that the obligation to provide
extended or long-term care for one of us could likely interfere
with your career path and your lifestyle.” She can
almost see behind their expressions that they are thinking
about the promotion that she passed up and the terrible
effect it had on her health. “Let me remind you that as
we discovered workable options by using the three simple
steps, the entire family, including your grandparents,
started to look more relaxed and confident. We want to
do the same for the next generation—you!”
Erik responds, “But isn’t this too early? There isn’t anything
wrong, right?” Erik looks to his sister for backup.
Nicole takes over, “Is there something we don’t know? I
agree with Erik. Grandma and Grandpa are older. I am
so glad that we found a couple of options that worked so
they can age at home. But you guys are, well, younger.”
Jodi answers, “As I recall, you both were concerned about
the effect providing care for your grandparents was having
on me, and that was before we ended up at the hospital.
Erik, your job required you to move away. What if your
or Nicole’s next job or promotion moves you farther away?
It is expensive to fly back and forth and not very practical.”
-excerpt from "How Not to Tear Your Family Apart"