This month we’ve been featuring Brenda Novak and her annual On-line Auction to benefit Diabetes Research. The reason she chooses this cause is because her son has Juvenile Diabetes. More that 50 million Americans are caring for a spouse, parent, or relative with a serious illness. Particularly difficult challenges I’ve noticed with the aging boomer population is when a couple is nearing or at retirement age and one or both of them are experiencing health problems, and / or they have elderly parents that require assistance. Many times because of the economy or other circumstances their adult children have moved back home.
When your child has a developmental or cognitive disability this adds an additional strain. Now you are not only concerned about caring for them until they become an adult but also through their entire life. Yes, all parents love and worry about their children and grandchildren, but it is not usual to have to literally plan out and carry the financial, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burden throughout their entire lives. Parents special needs individuals realize they will probably not live long enough to shelter and provide for their beloved child. I’ve witnessed aging parents barely coping with their own illnesses, and lingering on because they can’t let go of the the responsibility of the child they’ve cared for for over forty to fifty years.
Author and journalist Gail Sheehy identifies eight crucial stages of caregiving in her book Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos into Confidnece. Diane Rehm interviewed Gail Sheehey on NPR. She draws on her experience caring for her husband, the founder and editor of New York Magazine, Clay Felker. Even though her advice is focused on caring for the adults and elderly, it still applies to the caregiver that also has younger relatives and children that require their assistance.
Seeking out qualified help is essential to survival in this kind of financial, mental, emotional, physical and spiritual storm.
Below is a list of links that may be helpful to the reader or someone they know. The important part to remember is to take care of yourself – the caregiver. When you fail to do that there is no one left to care for the others and you become the burden.