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How to be Prepared for a Worst-Case Scenario (Caregiver Dies First)
Frank Blood
/ Categories: Care, Organizing

How to be Prepared for a Worst-Case Scenario (Caregiver Dies First)

Caregivers without a good plan B are playing Russian roulette with their loved one’s welfare. Obviously, plan A is for them to remain in good enough health to provide for the needs of their recipient until they are no longer needed. However, a significant number don’t make it. The chances of a caregiver outliving their patient or at least staying strong enough to meet the physical, mental, and emotional demands depend mostly on how well he or she takes care of himself or herself. Unfortunately, many of us don’t do a very good job of it – often giving up important things like our own health needs in favor of those of someone else.

Some studies have shown that more than 10 percent of family caregivers reported that their health deteriorated because of the responsibilities associated with assisting a family member. Over 50 percent said they skip their own medical appointments. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, spousal caregivers over the age of 69 have a 63 percent higher mortality rate than noncaregivers. Statistics aside, it’s easy to understand how the pressures of caregiving can create deadly stress if not resolved or at least mitigated.

Even if we take excellent care of ourselves, there’s no guarantee that we will be around when needed. Life is full of unexpected happenings and no one is immune from tragic circumstances. So, what are some of the things we can do now to make sure our loved one won’t suffer if we suddenly become incapacitated or die?

 

Make yourself expendable

Above all else, have another family member or trustworthy friend lined up to take your place. They don’t have to be just like you but they must be strong enough and willing to take over the job as soon as they are called upon. You don’t have to teach them everything; that would be impossible anyway. But make certain they understand what is involved and that they don’t have any misgivings like, “trying it out to see if it works.”

You will want them named as your backup on all important documents. Organizations like the National Caregivers Library offer tools to help you and them navigate the world of financial, medical, and legal documents. Don’t make the mistake I did by neglecting to complete advance directives because your loved one doesn’t want to talk about them or just doesn’t like working on them. I didn’t have Power of Attorney before my wife suffered a stroke and developed vascular dementia. POAs aren’t allowed once a person has memory issues so, the only thing I could do after her stroke was to go to probate court and become her legal guardian so that medical and financial institutions would share her information with me. It’s easier and better to have all the documents in place long before you might need them.

 

Be organized

Maintain lists of all medications (including vitamins and other supplements), dosages, doctors, insurance policies, relevant passwords, etc., etc., etc. in one place and let your backup know where to find them. Let her or him know who the people are that make up your person’s support network and make sure to write out all important instructions. If there are any wishes, like hymns to be played at the funeral, have them included in the files. Organization is the cornerstone to a smooth transition.

Take a hard look at your finances regarding insurance, assets, and out-of-pocket expenses. Figure out what changes might be necessary to ensure continuous care and make them while you are still able. Keep asking yourself, “What if?”

If possible, work with an elder law attorney and financial advisor to make sure you have most of the potential issues covered; at least those that can be anticipated. Make plans based on their recommendations and let other family members know what they are.

Naturally, you should get as much input as possible from your loved one and try to find satisfactory solutions to anything he or she objects to. Then, enjoy the peace-of-mind from knowing you’ve done all you can to make sure that if anything happens to you, their quality of life will continue unchanged.

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