“Plan B” – What do I mean by that phrase?
As a caregiver for your spouse, you are currently living “Plan A.” If you are the primary caregiver, you are most likely a woman and have total responsibility for your husband’s care. You might have some assistance from your children, or perhaps a neighbor might stop in for a few minutes each week so you can run to the grocery store. You might have a good friend who will pick up items at the pharmacy for you…. but ultimately, you are the one who prepares the meals, makes sure you help him get showered and dressed in the morning and you are the one who is up several times at night – every night – when he is wandering and looking for breakfast. You are the one who listens to repeated questions and you seldom have a minute to yourself.
Just suppose you fall and break your hip….. or you have a heart attack…. or you break your arm trying to catch your husband when he falls? What are you going to do? Who is going to step in and take your place? Who is going to provide care for your spouse when you can no longer do it? Maybe you just had your 82nd birthday and you just can’t do it any longer.
That’s where “Plan B” comes into play. We had a discussion about this topic at one of the support groups I facilitated this past week . Are you prepared with “Plan B” if you have a personal emergency?
I’m discovering that most caregivers and family members don’t have a second plan in place, in fact many of them don’t even want to think about this possibility. It’s crucial that you have the difficult discussions and are prepared for when an emergency might happen. It’s being ready for the “what ifs” in life. We’re all human and we all have a limited time on this earth. If you were to die before your spouse, what would happen to your loved one? None of these are things we want to think about, let alone talk about with family…. but they are very important and should not be ignored.
A very scary fact: 60% of caregivers caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease will die before their loved one. That happens because of physical and mental stress, lack of sleep, lack of support, poor diet, no respite time, refusing support, increasing age, personal physical illnesses, etc. My mother died in a hospital, but was there because of her complicated medical issues. My Dad lived with us after she died (our “Plan B”) when he was very ill, but died in the hospital due to his medical issues. And my father-in-law lived with us for a period of time (“Plan B”) before returning to his own home (“Plan C”) with 24 hour care. We all have a responsibility to care for each other. Is it easy?…NO! But as secondary caregivers or children or siblings, it is our responsibility to care for those we love or make arrangements for their care.
Many children will say “I can’t handle it” so you do it and then they walk away or ignore the situation. These responsibilities should not fall on the shoulders of one person, statistically a female. Life, family, illness and death are a team effort to be shared.