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Live Life On Your Own Terms

male caregiverAlmost 20 percent of today’s workforce – one out of every five employees – is a family caregiver. And about 70 percent of those working caregivers report increased absenteeism, interruptions and distractions throughout the work day, shifting workload to co-workers, cutting back working hours, passing up promotions, taking leaves of absence or early retirement, and other conflicts between their work and caregiving responsibilities.

Nearly half of all working caregivers report emotional stress and take prescription medications for anxiety and depression two to three times more than the general population.

That’s what living in constant fear of making mistakes or letting others down either at work or at home can do to you. But with these coping strategies, it doesn’t have to:

In 2016, the American Geriatrics Society defined a new approach called “person centered care,” which involves finding out what’s important to the individual and basing a plan of care on that.

“Person-centered care means that individuals’ values are elicited and, once expressed, guide all aspects of their health care, supporting their realistic health and life goals. Person-centered care is achieved through a dynamic relationship among individuals, and others who are important to them [such as family], and all relevant providers. This collaboration informs decision making to the extent that the individual desires.”

Does this mean that seniors have been getting poor care all along? Not at all. Most care is very capably and lovingly given by health care professionals who humbly dedicate their lives to caring for others. What it does mean, though, is that there’s more to caring for seniors than delivering a regimen of care dictated by medical evidence, best practices, and organizational policy.

Depending on which set of statistics you follow, somewhere between 15 million and 40 million spouses, adult children, relatives and neighbors provide unpaid care for their ill or disabled spouses, parents, aunts, uncles and friends.

They help with dressing, bathing, cooking, medications, transportation, and much more. That adds up to 37 billion hours of care a year, with an economic value of $470 billion – $21 billion a year more than the government spends on Medicare – according to a 2015 AARP study.

A false economy?

But the fact is, family caregiving can be a false economy. As a 1999 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study reports, “Although family caregivers perform an important service for society and their relatives, they do so at considerable cost to themselves.” That cost is financial, physiological and emotional.

aid2793750 728px Pickpocket Step 7 300x199In 1951, a journalist asked Willie “The Actor” Sutton why he robbed banks. “Because that’s where the money is,” the bank robber replied. That answer helps explain why seniors are prime targets for fraud, con games, scams, and outright theft. They’re where the money is.

Today’s older Boomers enjoy a median net worth of $241,333. Households over age 60 own half of the nation’s discretionary investment assets. America’s 100 million consumers over 50 buy $230 billion worth of packaged goods, almost half (49%) of total sales. “You’d have to be an idiot to turn your back on this humongous market,” says an AARP spokesman. And too many criminals don’t.

hourglass 300x225Health insurers, hospitals and other facilities don’t like to keep inpatients admitted any longer than absolutely necessary – partially for economic reasons, but also because speeding recovery is generally good for the patient.

But it’s not always that good for the patient’s family members, who often learn about the discharge no more than 24 hours ahead of time. That’s not much time to make sure the recommended next step is the best one.