by Karen Bromberg
Anniversaries matter. It doesn’t matter it it’s a wedding anniversary, the anniversary of a first job, or the anniversary of moving into a dream home.
It’s a way for us to mark a passage of time; a way for us to measure our progress. Said another way, it’s a yardstick by which we can measure how far we’ve come. I mean, how many times have we thought to ourselves, “Wow, last Christmas I was doing such-and-such. How things have changed!” or “Hmmm, when Amy and I moved in here, little Jennifer was only three years old. Now look at her, an adult, ready to go to college.”
In a few short days, we’ll be marking the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. For those who went through it (as my husband and I did), I’m sure you’ll never forget it. The flooding of neighborhoods. The power going out. The shortage of gas.
When Hurricane Sandy pummeled the New York Metropolitan area on October 29, 2012, I suddenly became a family caregiver – as many of you may already know, my parents house was one of the many that was flooded.
When I became a family caregiver, I had questions. LOTS OF QUESTIONS. About everything. Medicare. Medicaid. Assisted Living. You name it. I had questions about it. A smart, educated woman in her 50s, it was amazing how much I didn’t know. If someone were to ask me to describe myself, I’d have to say that I was a real “babe-in-the-woods” and totally over my head.
And not just about the big things, like how I was going to getting my parents onto Medicaid and into Assisted Living, but the “little” things as well. I worried about whether I should redirect their mail to my home or whether it was better just to have it halted it at their post office; about whether my parents had enough clothes at my cousin’s house – where they were staying while my husband and I searched for an assisted living facility – or whether we had to bring more the next time we went up to see them.
You know, the “little” things.
I learned so much during those first few days and weeks. There were the things I assumed I’d have to learn about, having never done them before – applying for Medicaid, dealing with FEMA – and the stuff I thought I knew but really didn’t. Now that was really a shocker!
Prior to Hurricane Sandy, my parent were still living independently on their own. My mother took care of my father and that was the way it was. I’d ask her how their doctor’s appointments went and she’d tell me . . . a little. I knew when they got their flu shots and when the doctor drew blood but other than that, my mother kept things pretty close to the vest. The one thing about my mother was that she was fiercely independent. So was my father. Which totally had it’s upside, but it also had a downside.
Imagine sitting with a social worker from an Assisted Living facility after the tour, being asked questions whose answers you know you should know, given that you are their daughter, but don’t.
As family caregivers, we need:
- to be active participants in urging our care recipient(s) to name a power-of-attorney and health care proxy.
- to discuss with our care recipients if he/she wants to fill out a living will, and
- make sure that all important paperwork – the power of attorney, the healthcare proxy, the will and the living will – are all kept in a place that’s easily accessible because in an emergency there’s just no time to waste.
We also need to:
- keep copies of everything that has to do with our care recipient(s). Never know when we might need the information.
- take good notes.
- not be afraid to ask questions.
The person(s) named as the power or attorney and healthcare proxy should have a firm handle on, and be well versed with, the care recipient’s financial, legal and medical status. Among the things they should know include but is not limited to (as is appropriate, given the tasks involved):
- the care recipient’s medical condition(s).
- the medication(s) the care recipient takes, including time(s) of day and dosages.
- the names, addresses and phone numbers of any and all medical professionals the care recipient goes to.
- the location of the care recipient’s important papers: including any burial plots the care recipient has.
- if the care recipient has any bonds or CD’s and if he/she does, the date(s) the bonds or CD’s are expected to come due.
- if the care recipient has any stocks and if so, the name, address and phone number of the stockbroker(s) the care recipient uses.
- the care recipient’s bank account(s), including amount(s) in each account and the address(es)of each bank.
- the names of all beneficiaries.
- if the care recipient has a pension or mortgage.
Quite the list!
In addition to that, we also need to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves, as well. Very simply, if we run ourselves into the ground, if we end up getting sick, who will be there to care for our care recipients, our loved ones.
We need to make sure that we:
- eat properly: employing a healthy variety of low fat meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.
- rest properly: trying (as best as we can) to get a full night’s sleep. Studies have shown that over time those who fail to get the proper amount of rest can put themselves at risk for a variety of health conditions.
- de-stress: even a few minutes of deep breathing, meditation and stretching can make a world of difference to both the body and the mind.
Anniversaries marking both happy, and less than happy, events can be very powerful reminders stirring up a myriad of emotions. For those who were impacted, please make sure to take care of yourself. Do something fun. Be with those you love.
I know that I will.
*some of the above was taken from my upcoming eBook “The Unsuspecting Caregiver: My Experiences In The Wake of Hurricane Sandy And The Lessons That I’ve Learned From Them” due out October 29, 2017. If you’d like to learn more, please contact me or go onto Amazon.com beginning October 29th.
Karen Bromberg is the founder of Helpyouthru.com. She is a certified yoga instructor and a certified caregiving consultant, helping overwhelmed family caregivers brainstorm ideas to help make their family caregiving experiences more rewarding and less stressful. If you’d like to get in touch with her, if you have any questions or comments about this post, please feel free to email at her firstname.lastname@example.org.
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