Off-time events can derail a young life*
For many of us, there’s a general expectation that at some point in the future, we will be a caregiver for an elderly parent or even spouse. What we don’t anticipate or expect is for that caregiving to start when we are in our 20s, 30s, or even 40s. Those are the years we expect to take care of ourselves (education, career, family), but many are finding they must put their own lives on hold to become a caregiver, and it can create feelings of anger or sadness in the process. There is help out there and we have put some of these ideas together in the hopes that it can help.
The first suggestion given to many of these young caregivers is to join support groups. We know that support groups work, and that many people feel tremendous relief when sharing problems, thoughts and concerns with like-minded folks. However, with young caregivers, the immediate problem is finding peers in the support groups. Often, there is no one under age 55 in an elder care support group for caregivers, but there are others going through the same thing. Reach out to senior centers in your area, contact an Association that deals with your loved ones main issue such as Alzheimer’s Association or Parkinson’s Association, speak with religious leaders or contact a local “Senior Village” to ask about support groups with younger attendees. These resources will know the families that attend and be able to point you to the group that suits you best.
The second suggestion for young caregivers is to hire outside help so the burdens of care can be shared and the young life a little less ‘derailed’. This is the point that those us of over the age of 40 must pay attention. Although long-term planning can be a hard issue to face, basic planning such as: arranging Power of Attorney for your financial and healthcare needs, preparing a living will spelling out your wishes clearly if you are incapacitated, and maybe even purchasing long term care insurance should be one prong in our retirement planning. Taking these relatively simple steps is a prudent decision that may allow a younger loved one to continue his/her life path without the tremendous burden of caregiving for a parent and/or grandparent.
Finally, reaching out for respite care services may be a great choice for young caregivers. There are many church and community groups that can assist with brief respite care situations. Home care companies also offer respite care services so that the young caregiver can attend a university class, book club, or spend a few hours working out. Being a young caregiver may not be ideal, but with some thought and planning by all parties, there are ways to get through it without completely ‘derailing a young life’ while still feeling good about doing all that you can to help a loved one.
Do you have caregiver plans in place? Do you know how you would handle an unexpected illness requiring home care? Please send us an email or share your experiences on our Facebook page.
*Pressed Into Caregiving Sooner Than Expected. The New York Times