The Fearless Cregiver


Gary Barg - Editor-in-chiefAsking the Experts


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.  He advised Bob to report immediately to the local hospital, only days after a routine physical examination.  Bob was 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 60 years, were depleted and the financial burden on Monica and her family had become staggering. Not only were they caring 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 65 million family caregivers in these United States. 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 Genworth Financialphrase “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 caregivers’ 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? Have they created a long-term care (financial, service and emergency) plan for themselves and their loved ones? How do they find respite in their hectic day? 

Want answers? Ask the experts—your fellow caregivers.



  Gary Barg
Today's Caregiver magazine
Wednesday September 21, 2011
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