In my earlier post, 2 Girls with an Idea, I mentioned that Tiffany and I originally started out trying to create a company called On Angels’ Wings that catered to the needs of the eldercare community. While there are many companies out there that provide caregivers to elders – caregivers that come to the elder’s home to care for the elder’s personal needs such as dressing, bathing, meal preparation, etc. – there is this missing link that I call Eldercare’s Blackhole. There doesn’t seem to be a service that fills the gap not covered by caregiving services; at least, I haven’t been able to find one and I’ve been involved with my elders’ care for more than four years now.
What gap? As a women, what do you do every day, week or month to keep your family together and moving forward? Here’s my list of 14 categories of things that we manage and do as women that fall into the nebulous vacuum of Eldercare’s Blackhole:
- Food management (review food on hand, meal planning, making a list, going to grocery store, purchasing supplies, putting supplies away)
- Medication management (review medications on hand; if a prescription med – reorder; if over-the-counter, check supply; make list; purchase and put away; or if mail-order, order and follow-up)
- Toiletries management (review items on hand, make a list of needed items, purchase items, put away items)
- Clothing management (review clothing; repair or take to alterations place for repair; do laundry – wash, dry, iron or fold, put away or take to dry cleaners, drop off and pick up; purchase new clothing either by shopping at a store or online; clothing returns)
- Shoe management (ditto above)
- Gift management (decide what gifts to buy for family and friends, purchase gifts either by shopping or ordering online; wrap gifts; deliver gifts; return gifts)
- Postal management (wrap packages for mailing, take packages to post office for mailing, purchase packaging materials, purchase stamps for letter mail)
- Health management (arrange doctor, dentist, eye specialist appointments; take loved ones to those appointments; follow-up on any on-going issues surrounding health management)
- Financial and Legal management (arrange for appointments with attorneys, accountants, bankers, insurance brokers and go to those appointments; banking via in person or online; bill review and paying; credit card management and oversight)
- Home management (mortgage; repairs and maintenance including landscape maintenance, pest control services; housecleaning; trash and waste disposal; property taxes; insurance)
- Vehicle management (repairs and maintenance; tag renewal; purchasing fuel)
- Social management (activities in and outside the home; keeping in contact with family and friends)
- Conflict resolution management (that can mean a whole lot of different and varied things!)
- Pet management (health care; food purchasing; grooming services; other needs associated with pet health and maintenance)
So, who manages these tasks if you are no longer able to do it because of age? Hopefully, a loved one steps in. But, that loved one will probably already do this for themselves, so taking on your “management” doubles the work needed to keep the wheels greased and turning! This is the gap I’m talking about.
While we seem to handle these tasks and duties routinely to keep our families running smoothly and moving forward, when you take on the duties of another family, on top of yours, things unravel and fall through the cracks.
While some caregiving companies do offer help with some of these services, guess what? You, as the overseer of your elder loved one, have to follow-up! Once, a caregiver refused to do a load of laundry for my mother because she’d already done one the day before. Also, they only do “light housekeeping” activities (like the dishes associated with meal preparation), so your housecleaning has now doubled to two homes, unless you hire a maid!
My point in sharing this information with you? It’s good to have a back-up plan; I didn’t and had to learn the hard way and am still learning as I go. If you know that you are going to be a caregiver to a loved one at some point in the future, talk to them about their financial situation sooner rather than later. If they have a sound financial plan (which should give you a little peace of mind), you will be able to afford to hire someone to take on these tasks and errands for you. If they haven’t, well you’ll be “Running on Empty” (see my earlier post by that title) frequently.
Even if your loved ones have a sound financial plan, they will need someone to oversee all of their needs. Just managing someone else’s life, on top of yours and your family’s (especially if you have a job outside the home, too!), is complicated, messy, stressful and overwhelming – Eldercare’s Blackhole.
As I write this, I’m working on a plan to try and get my aunt proper shoes. As a diabetic with nerve damage from back surgery years ago, she wears a brace on one leg. And, she has special shoes made for that brace. Guess what? Several weeks ago, her assisted living facility called me to tell me that one of her shoes was missing. In a normal person’s life, missing one shoe wouldn’t be catastrophic because most of us have more than one pair of shoes. But, she doesn’t. And, of course, it’s the shoe that fits the foot with the brace.
So, I dropped everything, went over to the assisted living facility, picked up the shoe and took it with me to the mall. I was able to find a similar shoe in her size, but it had lace ties instead of Velcro ties. Elated that I’d solved this crisis relatively quickly, I took the new pair of shoes to my aunt. And, initially, she was very happy with this new pair of shoes.
But, by the time I saw her a week later, she’d developed serious wounds on each heal from the shoes being tied too tightly by the caregivers. Now she couldn’t wear shoes at all and was being treated by a wound care specialist sent over by her visiting doctor! And, guess what? The assisted living facility found the missing shoe, but because of these wounds, she can’t even wear her old shoes!
And, the wound care specialist recommended that I find her slip-on shoes with no heal that Velcro over the top of her feet, so that they can be adjusted to her feet, especially the foot with the brace.
This time, I reach out to Tiffany and ask her help in solving this dilemma (since I now have to go back to work for the week). After several hours of shopping at four different shoe stores, texting me pictures of shoes under consideration, Tiffany finds a shoe that meets the criteria set by the wound care specialist. $162 dollars later, Tiffany drops the shoes off at my house so that I can take them to my aunt a few days later.
I deliver them and again my aunt is ecstatic and grateful. Tomorrow it will be a week since shoe delivery and my aunt just called me to tell me that they aren’t working out after all! Tired, frustrated, overwhelmed with endless tasks that never see resolution, I’m hiring an Angel, who has her own Angel company and is her own Angel employee to take my aunt out of the assisted living facility (a major big deal, because my aunt is a handful) to one or more shoe stores to try and resolve this on-going shoe drama.
Point: she is my aunt – not my mother. Who cares for the elders who are childless? Eldercare’s Blackhole. The beat goes on…
Until Next Time,