Being a family caregiver is an experience that will bring many moments of joy, sadness, frustration, and wisdom.
Living this journey can be life-affirming for many family caregivers. It is what you were meant to do – care for someone who once cared for you.
It can have its challenging moments but also brings clarity of purpose and insights if you pay attention.
What will you take away from your caregiving experience that will help you age successfully?
Lessons Learned as a Caregiver
Finding the silver lining in a every cloud, whether it has rain or emanates a rainbow is said to yield a positive outcome for the person who is willing to look for it.
Learning from experience and improving your personal aging experience are worthy goals for family caregivers.
Once you identify the areas which challenge you caring for a senior loved one, you can create an action plan for your own aging to allow you a more successful path in aging.
As I have learned, there are many aspects to that plan.
“I want to stay in my own home”
So you have decided you would prefer to live in your own home as long as possible as you age. Now is a good time to start incorporating universal design in your own home.
Modifying your home for aging needs every time you renovate or redecorate will make aging in place easier for you as your function changes.
For example, exchanging broken fixtures for age-friendly ones will put you ahead of the game and make it easier for your own caregivers.
If your home or your location is not ideal, perhaps now is the time to determine if a move, downsize, or a walkable city is in your best interest.
“I want to be financially prepared for the future and all my needs for aging”
Because you know first-hand from your role as a family caregiver just how expensive aging can be, you know having a sound financial plan will make your future easier.
Rising healthcare costs, limited retirement accounts, cost of living expanding greater than fixed incomes, and outliving the years of funds in the nest egg can be overcome with more informed financial planning.
Are you putting enough money away, do you have a long-term insurance plan, have you maintained a budget and paid off large debt so that you will be ready for the future? We all want to age in place but not enough of us have made the appropriate financial plans to maintain our desired way of living.
It is not too early to seek the advice of a financial planner to help you make a plan for your own future.
“I want to use technology for my benefit and for the ease of my caregivers”
In this digital age, most family caregivers can see that technology has already provided many benefits for seniors who live at home. There are devices and apps that will help keep us safe at home, connected to the community and allow us to manage our personal data.
The best is yet to come!
These innovations will only continue to be created and improved so that when we are ready, there will be no hesitation to employing as much technology as available.
Staying aware of the innovations and using technology now will help in the future.
“I want to live near my kids and grandkids”
You know how important it is, as a family caregiver, to be accessible to your senior loved one. You will also want this because chances are your kids will be your caregivers as you are with your parents.
Being near them will be best for you both.
Does that mean you need to move closer to them? Is a family conversation in order to decide if there is a chance they will relocate after you move to be near them making it necessary for you to move again?
Is it possible for you to move in with them and share a household? Does it make better sense to both find a property that allows you both privacy but proximity?
There are many more options now than in the past such as granny pods that can make living together but separately more cost effective.
“I want to have all my legal documents in order now!”
Experts believe that two-thirds of adults have not created legal documents that express their wishes or created a will that dictates where their assets will go after they die.
This situation leaves family caregivers guessing what to do as end-of-life approaches and often stuck in the middle of other family members who try to fight for their piece of the pie.
Executing advance directives, such as a living will or a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate order) before you need it and then discussing your wishes with your loved ones will help make you an informed care recipient and not put your caregivers in a difficult position, as you might feel you are currently in with your own senior loved ones.
Having time to contemplate your wishes, filing accurate documents, and sharing this with those who need them instead of trying to do it all quickly in an emergency will allow you to make the best choices and create action plans, including funeral arrangements, to reduce the stress on your future caregivers.
“I want to downsize and declutter”
You may be struggling with the thought of having to dispose of your senior loved ones’ fifty years of possessions. What is the most important to save, what is worth selling, and what is just junk?
Most of us have piles and boxes of stuff stored that we may not even remember we have. Imagine storing this for many, many years. This is what many caregivers are staring in the face right now.
It makes us realize we don’t want to do this to our future caregivers. Now is a good time to start decluttering the basement and garage and closets throughout your home so you can donate or sell the belongings you have that you no longer need so no one else will have to later.
Depending on your personal caregiving situation, there may be more lessons you learn to help you age more successfully.
Can you add a few to our list?
What would you put on your own list?
The important idea is that we take action when we see a problem that we need to fix for ourselves instead of getting frustrated that your senior loved ones haven’t prepared well.
The time is now to start preparing for your future!