Elderly spouses as caregivers have increased over the past decade. People are living longer. During my years of working in the acute-care setting, many of the elderly patients under my care had elderly spouses and no immediate family. I never considered the magnitude of the situation until my second look and the calls I receive about the care concerns of our elderly. I am sharing this information with you because we all need to look around us and have a conversation. I believe it is essential to share knowledge with others. It is called a social change agent!
Yesterday, I received a call from one of my sorors living in Arkansas. I met her at our regional conference in Baton Rouge. This sheds light on the importance of networking. We sat together and shared our passion directed toward “Service for Humanity” our sorority’s signature purpose. The conversation went something like this… an elderly person is at home after a hospitalization. The loving elderly spouse with health challenges is the caregiver. They have no children or immediate family. What an unsettling spot to be in…right? However, those who are without immediate family, probably never thought to make a plan, because they never thought they would find themselves in this dilemma. But, here we are!
The Elder Spouse Dilemma!
The good intentions of loving spouses ill-equipped to care for their sole mate can have dangerous outcomes. If they cannot perform the most basic needs, cook, feed, turn, and assist with toileting needs, this is a troubling circumstance. While the desire is there, the ability is not. Who becomes the likely source of care and support? Whom would they trust? Whom should they trust? This starts the conversation of preparing for the reality of aging. Many agencies can support situations like this, but they can be costly. Many will depend on friends, neighbors, or church members,(informal caregivers) but this is often a short-term fix. This could be good and bad merely based on consistency and commitment. An executor, someone who will be responsible for executing an assigned task or duty is possible, but even this requires pre-conversations before the need arises for care. It is especially important to get all the communication needed while a conversation can be had.
As Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate, the topic of elder Spouse care shines a light on the importance of having needed conversations on health, wellness, aftercare, and end-of-life wishes. This must be discussed early and often with someone you trust! We all are pilgrims passing through…none of US are going to get out of here alive. If you know elderly caregivers that are doing their best to support their loved ones, identifying them and providing guidance and resources is a first step.