By June Duncan
Taking care of a loved one is a complicated experience. It’s full of many hardships and heartaches, but also moments of joy and love. However, one of the most defining parts of caring for a declining loved one is uncertainty. It’s often impossible to know what tomorrow will bring, and that unpredictability lies heavy on caregivers’ shoulders, particularly during a worldwide pandemic.
How do you plan for a future you can’t see coming? The answer lies in preparedness. Consider the most likely scenarios, and take all of the uncertainty into the equation. Caregivers have to think about the future, no matter how unclear it might be. Here are some decisions you can make now to make tomorrow easier:
Caregivers need to pay attention to their loved one’s finances. This is true no matter what, but it’s especially true if your loved one is experiencing any cognitive decline. Seniors and people with disabilities are common targets for scams, so it’s important to be their protector. Moreover, many seniors simply lose the ability to manage their finances on their own. Approach this gently; It can be a sensitive subject.
If you evaluate your loved one’s financial situation and find they don’t have enough money to cover their long-term costs, you may need to consider talking with them about selling assets. For example, if they own their property, it could make sense to sell it. They can’t use money tied up in a house for a medical emergency or other urgent financial need. Having that cash at the ready will make a big difference. Research the local market thoroughly before you make any decisions – the pandemic is hitting housing differently across the country, so it could make it a worse (or better) time to sell.
If your loved one currently lives alone, take some time to consider whether this is feasible in the long run. Most people with degenerative conditions need full-time care at some point – it’s just the nature of the beast. Take some time to talk with your charge to discuss what signs you’ll use to determine when it’s time for a move to long-term care. You should also discuss what will come next.
Some caregivers prefer to move in with their loved ones, or have their loved ones move in with them. This is a good option if you have the time and resources to care for them full time. It can save you money, and it guarantees you have first-hand knowledge of your loved one’s state. However, it’s just not possible for everyone. Assisted living facilities or nursing homes are sometimes a better option, especially if your loved one will require a high level of medical care.
If assisted living might be on the horizon, start looking now. Involve your loved one as much as possible, taking them on tours and getting their input on what they do and don’t like. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about assisted living that you may have to overcome together. Researching the options before it’s necessary can take away some of the fear your loved one might have.
Power of Attorney
Perhaps the most important step you can take to prepare for your loved one’s future is to get their power of attorney. This gives you the legal power to make medical, financial, and other major decisions on your loved one’s behalf if they’re unable to decide for themselves. Make a point to have this legal matter settled as soon as possible.
Many caregivers put this off, but that’s a mistake. Cognitive decline can be gradual, but it can also happen suddenly. Once your loved one is deemed unfit to make their own decisions, they cannot grant you power of attorney – it goes to the court system. You can lose valuable decision-making time while the state grants guardianship, and their decision might not align with your loved one’s wishes.
Looking ahead can be stressful or even painful, but it’s worth it. Your loved one’s future doesn’t have to be entirely uncertain. With the right steps, you can prepare for the obstacles that are most likely to appear on your path.
June Duncan is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She has been a caregiver to her 85-year-old mother for quite some time, and enjoys sharing caregiving tips she has gleaned from her own experience. She is also the author of the upcoming book, “The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.” http://riseupforcaregivers.org/