If you are the primary Family Caregiver for your aging parent or declining spouse, you have learned a lot. Through trial and error, you learned most of what you know the hard way. After many weeks or months of being the sole Family Caregiver, you know what works and what doesn’t work so well. After all of your trial and error, talking to experts and determining what actually works for you and for Momma, you finally have a handle on how best to serve as her Family Caregiver. Now let me make a shocking statement – it’s time to start looking for your Replacement Family Caregiver!
It’s good that you have accumulated all of this knowledge. But what if something happened to YOU?! We have focused so intently on the care and well being of our Loved One for so long that we don’t often stop to think about what would happen to Momma if something suddenly happened to us. It’s time to start searching for your Replacement Family Caregiver – even before you need them.
Temporary or Permanent Absence
The “something” that may happen could be temporary, such as you have a bad cold and don’t want to pass that along to your Momma, so you are out of action for several days. It could also be a situation such as business or personal travel that takes out out of town for a week or two.
The “something” could also be permanent. For example, you could suffer a sudden decline in your own health (ex. Heart attack or cancer) that in some cases would prevent you from continuing to serve as full time caregiver. Obviously your death would be a permanent situation where you could no longer serve.
An elderly lady voiced this concern recently in one of Cindy’s Alzheimer’s support group meetings. Cindy asked, “What is the one thing that keeps you up at night”. This lady immediately responded, “I worry about what would happen to him if something happened to me first.” In typical caregiver fashion, she was not worried about herself, she was concerned about her husband’s well being if she was not there to take care of him.
Are you worried about who will replace you?
Click here to Download Your To-Do Checklist on Finding Your Replacement Caregiver
This concern is intensified and likely more real to life if it’s a situation where the Family Caregiver is the “well” spouse who is the same age as the “sick” spouse. Sometimes the well spouse is deemed “well” only because they still have their cognitive ability. The sick spouse may in fact be in better health, but may have Alzheimer’s or other disease that has affected their cognitive reasoning.
In situations like this, the 2 spouses literally lean upon each other to continue to function at home. It can happen that either spouse could fall and break a hip, or suffer any other major decline in health. Oftentimes, it’s likely that both will be in the nursing home or hospital the same day.
Can a Replacement Family Caregiver Just “Show Up” and Carry On?
Whether it’s one of the kids providing care for Momma, or one spouse providing care for the other, the Primary Caregiver has a ton of information that resides only with them. If something happens to them for any reason that renders them unable to serve, then what does happen to their Loved One? Can a Replacement Family Caregiver just show up tomorrow, step in the shoes of the long time Family Caregiver and carry on?
While it may be impossible for a Replacement Family Caregiver to take the place of a Family Caregiver, you can take steps to make it much easier for such a transition to occur, even in temporary situations. For example, if you (the Family Caregiver) are traveling or are sick yourself, if you have prepared properly, then you can enjoy your trip (or your cold) in peace, because you know that due to your preplanning, your bases are covered. Your Momma will be OK until you return.
“My Replacement” To-Do Checklist
We have attached a list of pre-planning basics to commit to writing immediately. When this is complete, a Replacement Family Caregiver can step into your shoes and make sure the important care-giving tasks are covered. Momma’s needs will be much better met until you return.
Don’t Leave Your Substitute Clueless
We see situations every week where something happens to the Primary Caregiver and the Replacement Family Caregiver doesn’t have a clue. It takes a lot of time and effort for the backup to play private detective. They are trying to find out everything that they will need to know about your Loved One and their care.
Sometimes the answers only come with the same trial and error experimentation that you had to do to find the answers in the first place. The problem is that your Loved One’s health may not be as good as it was when you discovered the best way to do everything for them. Experimentation by the Replacement Family Caregiver may be frustrating. Worse, it may be downright dangerous to your aging parent’s health.
If you are the Senior reading this:
To start with, if you are the Senior reading this, congratulations for being proactive enough to take charge of your own health! Now please do your kids a favor, download the My Replacement To-Do Checklist
make sure you have these things done. Tell your kids or your Family Caregiver (if you have one) that you have done this and put it where they can find it.
If you are the Family Caregiver reading this:
If you are one of the Family Caregivers, do everyone a favor and complete this My Replacement To-Do Checklist immediately. Don’t find yourself Scurrying to Help Momma Plan as discussed in a prior blog post. You will be better prepared for an unforeseen contingency that life may throw at you by doing this work up front. Both you and your Loved One will be better off because of your efforts.