Five years ago, I started Severino Health Advisors to help clients navigate the challenges of a new or chronic medical condition. My motivation for starting my business was to pass on my many years of experience of caregiving for my parents — my dad with cancer, and my mom with dementia.
I realized many other families were struggling with similar caretaking issues and many of them felt lost too! Despite a long career as a registered nurse and physician assistant, I was not prepared to be a caregiver for either of my parents.
I understood the medical side of their illnesses and that was it. The issues that challenged me the most were the processes of:
- Getting a second opinion
- Getting immediate help during a crisis
- Hiring in-home care
- Paying for expensive medications
- Reviewing medical bills and insurance statements
- Surviving the long and exhausting days of helping a loved one with dementia
Sound familiar? It is scary and overwhelming charting this unknown territory, so I really wanted to help every other family member I could handle these difficult challenges.
In the last five years, I have identified some important caregiving issues and learned a lot about the process of aging that I want to share:
Getting sick is expensive. Money may not be your first concern after you have a heart attack, find out you have cancer, or are diagnosed with dementia. But you eventually realize that your health care crisis could make it difficult to return to work or keep up with your basic expenses. If you are a caregiver for someone with a new medical crisis, you may also be having difficulty working your full-time job and might be at risk for a reduction in your monthly income. Did you know: ⅔ of all bankruptcies are caused by a medical issue due to the loss of income or the cost of care!
Building a support team is extremely important. Caring for a loved one with a chronic medical condition can be exhausting. If you are caring for a spouse that is ill, you may find yourself resentful at the loss of normalcy in your life. You may feel like you should give up meeting with friends, going to social events, or finding time to take a walk. When a loved one becomes more dependent, caregivers really need to have a care team in place so all of the burden is not left to just you. Family and friends are usually eager to help support both the person with the illness and the primary caregiver (… and if they’re not, you need a senior health advisor to help out)!
You may not be able to age in place. Most of my clients want to stay in their homes and continue to live independently. They don’t want to move… even if they are offered a more economical and age-friendly residence. But not everyone can make it work at home. The reality is that most people can’t afford to live in their home if they need paid caregivers for more than 8 hours a day. Your home may not be suitable for aging — especially if it was built years and years ago. You’ll need to plan for major renovations if you or your loved one plans to continue to live independently.
Parents often refuse to listen to their adult children. I frequently get calls from adult children who are overwhelmed trying to take care of their aging parents. The children realize that things are going downhill. They attempt to get their parents to stop driving, suggest bringing in personal care aides, or raise the possibility of moving a parent to personal care. Most of the time their parents will not agree with any attempt to face the reality of aging.
Bringing in an outsider such as hiring a health advocate or geriatric care manager can be a game-changer. Having a third party assessment offers an invaluable perspective for care options that might be better received by the aging parent. For reasons that I cannot always explain, your aging loved one is more likely to accept my recommendations despite refusing to listen to their own kids that suggested the same thing.
The last five years have given me the opportunity to help hundreds of clients and their families. If you are struggling with a new or chronic illness, or you’re overwhelmed with caregiving responsibilities you should definitely take advantage of my free 15-minute phone consultation. If nothing else, you’ll have a great listener who understands the challenges you are facing! Also, an easy way to learn more about the challenges of getting sick or aging is to check out my blog site at www.SeverinoHealthAdvisors.com.