Climbing financial debt, squabbling siblings and difficult decisions—just another day in the life of a family caregiver, right?
They're also a few of the daily challenges facing the president of the United States, Barack Obama.
However you feel about Obama's personal politics or his plan for the country, his recent re-election means that he will be America's "Caregiver-in-Chief "over the next four years.
And, no matter what stage of caregiving you find yourself in, whether your parent is just starting to need extra care at home, or you've been looking after your spouse for years, every caregiver needs a plan—a State of the Caregiver, if you will.
Last night, during his State of the Union address, Obama reviewed the nation's most pressing issues (the national debt, the looming sequestration cuts, international policies and education reform, to name a few), and outlined a national plan of attack.
Putting aside the politics, elements of his address apply not only to affairs of state, but also to affairs of caregiving:
- "If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas." In order to provide the best care for a family member, a caregiver must invest time and energy into educating themselves not only about their loved one's conditions, but also about the ins and outs of government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. It's a daunting task, to be certain, but help is available. Here's a list of resources every caregiver should know.
- "None of us will get 100 percent of what we want." Compromise and caregiving go hand-in-hand. Family members won't always agree on the best course of care for an ailing loved one and fights over power of attorney, guardianship and inheritance can be brutal and messy. But there are ways to compromise. It is possible to get siblings to help with caregiving. It is possible to hold a family meeting for aging parentswithout getting into unnecessary arguments.
- "Today's world presents not only dangers, but opportunities." Nearly all negative situations also have an element of positivity to them, even the tough issues faced by family caregivers. Part of being an effective caregiver is being able to embrace the positive caregiving moments(yes they do exist) and appreciate their humor.
- "No laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges... but we were never sent here to be perfect." It's natural to want the best for an aging family member. However, this well-intentioned sentiment can backfire when you attempt to hold yourself to unattainable standards of perfection. The crushing feelings of guilt that accompany putting a parent in a nursing home, or calling hospice for a dying husband can be devastating. It's important to remember that you cannot control a loved one's condition. At any given time, the only thing you can do is respond in the best way possible, given the information you have. Accepting this truth will help you stop feeling guilty and prevent you from being too hard on yourself.
In the end, words, whether written on a page or spoken aloud are just that—words.
Only you can decide whether your personal ‘state of the caregiver' address will change your approach to solving the problems you face while taking care of your loved one.
What do you think? How might you be able to benefit from coming up with a ‘state of the caregiver' address?