Last column I wrote about the heartbreak I see in some seniors who feel as if they are nothing more than a source of money or assets to those who will be left when they pass. No estate plan can exceed the blessing of the lives and lessons we learn from those who came before us. Their values surely exceed their valuables.
That column elicited a rather poignant response from one woman. Hers was a second marriage, and her current spouse was now receding into the desolate fog of dementia. As we discussed her circumstances, she commented on my column and said, “please let his children know I need help.”
More than 65 million people -- approximately 29% of the U.S. population -- are caregivers for a chronically ill, disabled or aged individual. Not surprisingly, the vast majority are unpaid family caregivers.
This heroic effort may be what families do for each other, but its costs are very real. There are financial costs, but the commitment of time can also be overwhelming. Caregivers spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care, while 13% of family caregivers provide care 40 hours or more each week.
And there are other serious costs. More than half of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression.
Caregivers put family needs before their own; balance personal, work and caregiving demands; manage physical and emotional stress; and ensure the financial costs of care are paid. These demands can become a whirlpool drowning the caregiver.
There are resources available for caregivers. The Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership, www.eicap.org, has helpful information. The Alzheimer’s Association, www.alz.org, is another very important resource for those dealing with dementia. More on this to come.
However, likely the most important resource is the combined contribution of family, friends and loved ones. For those who have provided you so much, but now need your assistance, do not leave that burden to someone else to shoulder alone.
© 2016 Steven J Wright