In 2010 there were about seven potential caregivers for everyone who was over 80. This ratio is projected drop to four to one by 2030. Chances are good that many of us will need to hire a caregiver or live in a senior home when we are older.
We avoid thinking about getting older and needing help, but avoiding the subject tends to hurt us later. Are you ready?
While you’re healthy, consider making a tip sheet for yourself to give to future caregivers. If you’re already a caregiver, make your loved one’s tip sheet so that a future caregiver will know what you know (if you are ever no longer able to be there).
The tip sheet could include a list of favorite songs, foods, books, topics of conversation, TV shows, movies, and places to visit. Then list subjects, songs, and places to avoid. Include your nickname, any significant accomplishments or awards, jobs and hobbies you have enjoyed, and family members that you especially enjoy. Include several pictures of your childhood, teen years, adult and family life.
Add a list of your daily routines including when you get up and go to bed when you shower and eat. Write out your normal bedtime routine. Should you ever be in a nursing home, it will be helpful for the staff to know if you’re used to taking a bath in the morning or at night and your other routines. Should you ever be losing weight due to health reasons, caregivers will be glad to have a list of your favorite foods.
Most families have their own slang words for meals and their body. Does your family have lunch or dinner? Do you go to the potty or take a wee? Normal lingo for you might be an unusual word for your caregiver. Write down these family words on the tip sheet. Passing on family lingo is especially important for those who suffer from memory loss.
You probably already know which of your family members is most likely to be your caregiver should you ever need help. It’s probably the one who is the most compassionate and available to you already. Women represent about 60 percent of caregivers presently, but both genders are capable caregivers so think about your sons and nephews. Take the time now to share your advanced directives and the tip sheet with your family members and let them ask questions. Remember to show them where you store your advanced directives and your will.
Download All about Me from the SC Respite Coalition for possible worksheets to help you get started.
We avoid conversations about being frail as much as we avoid conversations about death because we just don’t want to think about it. Consider using some of the quiet winter evening hours now to prepare your family for the future. Or at least clip out this article and post it on your desk so you’ll remember and write later.
Eunice Lehmacher, a licensed independent social worker, is the bereavement coordinator at Prisma Health Hospice of the Foothills in Seneca. For additional information about the program, click here.