Women and the circle of caregiving
By THERESA CAVALIER
We've all heard the expression "a woman's work is never done." It's so true. Just as women cross the threshold into adulthood, many get married and have children. New mothers often agonize over the decision to stay home and be "Mom" full-time, or leave the children in someone else's care in order to pursue a career and earn that much-needed second income.
For years, many women juggle careers, domestic responsibilities, and their children's extra-curricular activities, all while trying to squeeze in some quality time with their spouse. Then, just as the children begin to grow up and become more self-sufficient, parents begin to age and gradually become more dependent.
In the 21st century, caregiving has become increasingly difficult. Many women must take a leave of absence or switch to a part-time schedule at work in order to meet the needs of a loved one. This can limit a woman's availability, which may hold her back professionally. What's more, income disruptions can interfere with a woman's ability to save money, plan for retirement, or attain financial security. Moreover, because women have a longer life expectancy than men, wives often end up caring for their elderly husbands, as well.
With just so many hours in a day to meet professional and personal obligations, it's no wonder women are seeking ways to minimize stress and anxiety, as well as financial hardship. If you're a woman and a baby boomer, these scenarios may sound all too familiar. The good news is that there are ways to meet the needs of your loved one while also minimizing stress, career disruptions and financial hardship.
Consider the following tips:
• Pursue a flexible career with a family-friendly employer. Or, talk with your employer about job-sharing, flexible scheduling, or working part-time. This can significantly reduce your stress level and allow you to meet your own needs, as well as those of your loved one and your employer.
• If you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) through your employer, take advantage of it. Inquire about counseling and caregiving services in your area.
• Talk to your loved one about having a plan for long-term care, which can include long-term care insurance (LTCI). LTCI can increase options for care and minimize financial burden in the future. Remember, the best time to consider LTCI is before an illness or injury forces a hasty decision. Early planning will allow time to research the options and seek advice.
• If possible, choose medical facilities and support services for your loved one that are close to your home or work. This can shorten your commute, save time and make it easier to stop and check in. If living nearby is impossible or if you are a long-distance caregiver, investigate the possibility of hiring a private geriatric care manager, a home health aide or a personal care attendant for your loved one. Such an individual may serve as your "eyes and ears," helping to ensure your loved one's safety and well-being.
• Consider adult day care. This option may allow you the time to fulfill your own responsibilities, while providing your loved one the opportunity to socialize with peers. Adult day care centers are designed to accommodate the physical needs of older adults. Many centers provide personalized care, health and social programs adapted to the participants' needs, and nutritious meals.
It's true that you're older now, and perhaps a bit more tired, but the circle of caregiving continues. Just remember, there are ways to meet the needs of your loved one, while also minimizing stress, career disruptions and financial hardship. Share what you learn with your friends and fellow caregivers.
Who knows? One day, your own daughter may thank you for it.
Theresa Cavalier is a licensed long-term care insurance agent at Thorp & Trainer Insurance Company Westerly and can be reached at 401-596-0146 or firstname.lastname@example.org