The old adage states that "two heads are better than one," but when it comes to getting a second opinion about pursuing a medical procedure for a loved one, caregivers often hesitate. For one thing, they worry about offending the specialist who made the recommendation in the first place. After all, specialists can spend a decade or more acquiring the expertise that stands behind their judgment and know vastly more about the medical issues than the average caregiver.
Most caregivers know without being told that caregiving is taxing physically and emotionally—and the facts bear them out. According to a study by the Commonwealth Fund, caregivers develop chronic conditions at nearly twice the rate of non-caregivers, and estimates show that between 40 percent and 70 percent of caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression. Their own poor health is the reason most frequently cited by caregivers for a decline in the quality of care they can provide their loved one.
In centuries past, the situation people faced as they grew elderly was often dire. During hard times, seniors were consigned to the poorhouse, and those who remained at home feared they would become a burden on their families. Today the situation is completely different, thanks to the efforts of millions of ordinary Americans who have taken it upon themselves to serve as caregivers. Because of their compassion, most seniors today enjoy a quality of life that would have been unimaginable 100 years ago.
If there's one lesson we've learned from past hurricane seasons, it's that there's no stopping Mother Nature. Each area of the country has their season to be prepared. Winter blizzards in the Northeast, tornadoes in the Mid-West, earthquakes and fires in the West. Despite mother nature, all families should discuss and have an emergency plan.
In Case of a Sudden Emergency
Fire or earthquake and other natural disasters can happen with little or no warning. In these cases, careful preparation is important because every second counts:
There is no setting more likely to make people feel defensive than a hospital. Hospitals are unfamiliar—simply finding the way from a patient's room to the cafeteria may require a map. And they are intimidating—full of high-tech equipment and people who seem so busy that you hesitate to ask a question.
Caregiving can be a source of immense satisfaction and accomplishment. It gives you the opportunity to forge an enduring bond with your loved one and experience the gratification of being of service to another human being who depends on you. But caregiving also brings its own responsibilities and pressures. As a caregiver, you are constantly being challenged to learn something new, to make yet another important decision, or to navigate through days filled with appointments and obligations, some of them planned, others unexpected.
One of the hardest things for a caregiver to do is to set limits—and there are few times when it's more difficult to set limits than when your loved one can no longer live alone. Many caregivers feel that even suggesting that their loved one join a senior living community is disloyal. After all, their loved one needs assistance and may have cared for them when they were young. Shouldn't they reciprocate?
The effect of aging on personality is difficult to predict. Some people become less demanding and more forgiving with the passage of time. They are at peace with their own failings and more understanding of the failures of others. They are less wary and defensive, more open to new experiences, and more appreciative of kindness and beauty.
If your loved one fits in this category, you're very fortunate. The experience of caregiving will draw you even closer together, strengthening the bond of love and respect you feel for each other.