As November winds down, I'd like to once more recognize National Family Caregivers Month, declared by President Obama in a proclamation that encouraged "all Americans to pay tribute to those who provide care for their family members, friends and neighbors in need."
In that spirit, I'd like to talk about AARP's Decide. Create. Share.sm campaign. It is all about encouraging women to take charge of their lives and plan for their futures. According to a recent AARP poll, 6 in 10 women age 45 to 64 did not know how they would pay for their own long-term care needs. Keep in mind that the average age of a caregiver is 50, so in all likelihood these women are already providing care for a friend or family member.
The campaign recognizes several key facts:
- Women are the biggest users of long-term care, since we live longer than men.
- We are so busy with our own hectic lives, including caring for family and friends, that we do not think about our own future needs.
- Providing care to others actually can put us at a disadvantage in some respects — we spend time and money as caregivers, leaving us less prepared for our care needs later in life.
The campaign points out that fully 40 percent of us don't really understand what long-term care is. Too many people still think that long-term care means a nursing home or an insurance policy. It involves so much more, including home, community, health, finance and legal needs. The truth is that we are all living longer, and if we live long enough, we will likely need some help. That means help with transportation, shopping or personal needs, or skilled medical care. It can also mean renovations to your home to make it safe and comfortable for you and even using new technologies to help you live your best possible life.
Here are some great practical things we women can do today that will help prepare us to stay in charge later in life:
Know your family medical history. Adopt new habits now that can protect against disease in the future.
Look around your home. Think about whether those stairs to the bedroom on the upper level could become a problem.
Check out your community. Find out what services are available, from transportation programs to in-home care.
Think about your financial situation. Learn the cost of long-term care services.
Talk with your family and friends. Tell them about your plans for the future and be sure they know what you want.
Decide. Create. Share. sm Three powerful action words. We caregivers are powerful — let's take charge of our lives and plan for our future needs with as much gusto as we put into our caregiving. Visit AARP.org/decide for great resources and tools to get started. Think of it as a way to pay tribute to yourself in this month of celebrating caregivers.