When the phone rang in her home one summer afternoon, Monica knew all too well about the life changes that some phone calls can bring. A few years earlier, shortly after her husband Bob’s retirement, they received a call from the family doctor, advising Bob to report immediately to the local hospital, only days after a routine physical examination. Bob had been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and passed away within a year.
This time the call came from Monica’s father’s doctor. The diagnosis was in and Joe, her dad, had Alzheimer’s. The long road of family caregiving began anew.
Within the next five years, all of Joe’s savings, accumulated over sixty years were depleted and the financial burden on Monica and her family had become staggering, as they not only cared for Joe but also his wife, Helen, who was living with mini-strokes.
How do I know so much about this family? Because Monica is my mother.
Before you think that my family’s situation is unique, consider the fact that, at present, there are over 2 million family caregivers in Florida alone. These caregivers are responsible for the well-being of their loved ones who need care. They are also commonly referred to as the “Sandwich Generation” due to the fact that they find themselves sandwiched between responsibilities to parents, children, grandchildren and spouses.
Recently the recognition of multi-generational caregiving has been extended to include the phrase “Club Sandwich Generation” referring to the fact that caregiving can include members of more than three generations. But no matter what disease or illness their loved ones face, the most important thing for a caregiver to remember is to not isolate themselves from their fellow caregivers. Every conversation family caregivers have with one another is an opportunity to possibly pick up an important piece of the caregiving puzzle.
The caregivers they meet in a pharmacy waiting line, an emergency waiting room or at a caregiving conference have learned at least one important lesson about successfully caring for their own loved ones that could be of great value to them, as well. How did they get dad to agree to stop driving? How do they find respite in their hectic day? Want answers? Ask the experts – your fellow caregivers.
Gary Barg is founder and editor-in-chief of Today’s Caregiver magazine and caregiver.com as well as the author of the books “The Fearless Caregiver” and “Caregiving Ties that Bind.”
He will be hosting the Brooksville Fearless Caregiver conference on October 24, 2018 from 9:00 to 12:30 at the Jerome Brown Community Center, 99 Jerome Brown Place, Brooksville, FL 34601.
Complimentary tickets will be provided to family caregivers for the event. To register, call (877) 829-2734 or online at caregiver.com