My grandmother, Mary, passed away last week at the age of 99. A kind, service-oriented woman who packed two lifetimes into her one, she exemplified what it means to have lived a good life. Reflecting back, it’s clear that she served others, and living to 99 required that she also be served. If there’s any doubt that love is action, you should have seen her kids care for her the final years of her life. It was inspiring, while it was also very difficult work at times. Such is love, such is life.
If you’re in a caregiver role, or think you may be at some point in the relatively near future, there are some tangible steps you can take to minimize the confusion and relieve some of the anxiety. But before I share some of those steps with you, please consider the words of my mother, one of Mary’s four children: as a caregiver, “Forgive yourself and admit you aren’t perfect. Accept any help offered.” That’s some hard-won wisdom, my friends.
Here are six steps to plan care for another:
- Talk. Spend some time in conversation with the person you’ll be caring for. Doing whatever you can to better understand their care needs and how you’ll plan to provide care will go a long way in your journey together. Continuing to have discussions along the way (unless they’re severely incapacitated) will allow adjustments and continued improvement.
- Make a list. Write down everything you can think of as it pertains to the care needed. What specific needs are there, what services will be needed, and where do you intend to procure those services?
- Build a team. Now that you have a sense for what’s needed, it’s time to solicit help. While you may be the coordinator of the care, that doesn’t mean you do all of the caring. Siblings, medical specialists, and religious groups can all provide significant levels of support to your loved one and to you. Don’t be bashful about asking.
- Host a family meeting. Set a time for family members, including younger children, to get together to discuss likely care needs. It’s amazing how effective this can be when everyone gets involved. One way to ensure that others don’t help, or feel left out, is to not include them in the care from the beginning. By communicating clearly and frequently with the family, everyone gets the opportunity to chip-in with their unique skills.
- Learn your loved-one’s medical and financial status. This may not be easy to assess, but the more information they’ll offer you, the better care they’ll receive. Create lists of doctors, financial advisors, accountants, etc.
- Meet with an estate planning attorney and their financial advisor. Having legal and financial matters arranged before health declines further may result in much better financial outcomes. Also, these professionals may have access to information and networks of other professionals that can pay huge dividends in your loved-one’s journey.
Of course, there are countless other actions that will be necessary over the course of caring for a loved one. Hopefully, this list will inspire you to get started now rather than wait.
When we look ahead, we know that the journey in caring for another person will not be easy. You’ll be challenged in ways that you never imagined. But looking back, you may recognize the deep satisfaction that comes from helping a person you love preserve their dignity and feel loved throughout the process. Don’t we all want that for our own life?
We may not all live 99 years like Mary did, but I hope that we all receive the care and love that she experienced from her amazing family and support system. There are steps to be taken that can make it simpler to navigate; ultimately, love is a verb.
All the best,
Adam Cufr, RICP®