In the fall of 2013, Michelle D. watched her oldest son launch a career from afar. She had just sent a second child off to college and was enjoying her youngest’s final year of high school. It seemed as if the bulk of her caregiver days were over.
And then, Betty, her mom, fell.
Michelle became a caregiver in a new way, and like nearly 45 million other unpaid family caregivers in the United States, this meant checking in on her mom and helping her as she recovered. It meant stopping by Betty’s home after work to do laundry and take stock of the fridge, the bills on the table and her mother’s overall health.
A new role
Unpaid caregivers like Michelle frequently feel overwhelmed. Often, they are thrust into this position during a crisis, with no say in how to handle finances, medical care or even the level of care a loved one can receive.
But Michelle was prepared. When her mother began to decline, she made sure to set up a power of attorney, so when the time came, she could make financial decisions for her mother. She asked Betty to complete HIPAA paperwork, so when complex medical situations arose, Betty’s doctors could talk to Michelle about them. And she asked her mom to go over her living will again to clarify what kinds of medical actions Betty wanted.
Today, Betty lives in an assisted living community designed for people with dementia. It’s been difficult for Michelle to see her mom move from her home to a care setting, but she has peace of mind knowing her mom is getting the care she needs, and her affairs are in order.
Michelle doesn’t think of herself as “lucky,” just prepared. Unlike many other caregivers, she had time to plan.