Last week, I listened to an caregiving expert speak about the caregiving experience. She spoke about celebrities who share their caregiving stories and how, in essence, they are just like you. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, she said, the roller coaster ride of emotions affects everyone.
When I first heard this, I thought, “This really isn’t sitting right with me.” I continued to think about this and then I had a chance to listen to her comments again just to make sure I heard them right.
I heard her comments correctly. Caregiving is the great equalizer, she said. It doesn’t matter how much money you have.
I do agree that money doesn’t protect you from tragedy or grief or sadness or guilt.
But, money sure does help during those times when a family member needs care. Imagine being able to hire the best care, no pinching pennies required. Imagine being able to fire poor care as soon as you see it. Imagine being able to call on the best doctors and specialists simply because when you call, your call is answered. Imagine just buying what you need when you need it. Imagine being able to hire help for yourself–to run your errands, schedule your day, follow up on phone calls–so that you can spend uninterrupted time with (and away from) your caree.
That feels good, doesn’t it?
Here’s the reality check.
When you worry about money, you live in hell. The stress is so incredible that it amplifies your grief, sadness and guilt. When you worry about the costs of medications, when you struggle to afford care (and, heck, if it’s good care, that’s just a bonus), when you pray every minute that the checks don’t bounce, you live in a dark cloud. It doesn’t just follow you, it envelops you. (A good example is @gwyn, who received $500 through our CareGifters program in April. You can listen to Gwyn share her worries about money here.)
And, it’s not short-term, this hell created by a lack of money. When you don’t have money, you take on debt. Paying back credit card debt takes years. Climbing out of a hole created because of bankruptcy eats up a decade. Lack of money impacts today, tomorrow, the future.
Consider family caregivers who leave the workforce or who cut back on their hours in order to provide care. According to MetLife Mature Market Institute, those who care for parents lose an estimated three trillion dollars in wages, pension and Social Security benefits when they take time off to do so.
Think about how much longer you will work if you took time off for caregiving or if you took on debt during caregiving.
When a tragedy happens, I’d much rather have money. Because the great inequity during caregiving is money. When you have money, you have options and choices and a future not afforded to those who don’t. And, if you don’t have a lot but you don’t have a little, you’re stuck without much.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts in our comments section, below.
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