You’ve heard the statistic. Every day 10,000 more Americans turn 65 years old. We all know someone who has celebrated their 65th birthday…no crisis. The crisis will be the magnitude of need that’s represented 10, 15 or 20 years down the road as health issues add up. But even that is not the real crisis. The real crisis comes from too few younger caregivers to meet the needs for their aging care receivers who will outnumber them…we might call that the storm surge that follows the Silver Tsunami. Picture a hurricane that just parks in America and stays…for a generation!
So if you know there is a storm called the Silver Tsunami in the forecast, do you stock up on bottled water, gasoline and dry goods? Let’s use the Florida panhandle residents as a case in point:
- The large percentage of them had a plan…they left the area for safety
- But most of those who stayed behind also had a plan…they stocked up
- A very small percentage just hunkered down…because they had no plan
Aging America is upside down on this. Seven out of eight of the potential caregivers to older loved ones in America have no plan. That is about 95 million Americans who will just hunker down. They have no water, no gas and no dry goods…and no plan. Well, here is the fall back to an actual plan, and it is a lot like just stocking up. Ask your older loved one to make copies of their important documents and to keep one copy with someone they would designate as a caregiver and keep another one in a safe. The documents to copy should include:
- A life insurance policy, if they have one, with contacts
- Their written will or trust and the lawyer to contact
- Contact people such as their primary physician, close friend, family, etc.
- A complete and current list of all their prescriptions
- Their written health records or the logon information for their records
Some of you may be saying there is little or no chance to get my loved one to have this conversation. It’s simpler than you think. It is actually all about starting a conversation that can more naturally lead to some concrete action steps like these. Use an occasion like a holiday gathering, perhaps a friend’s unexpected hospitalization or the diagnosis of a celebrity that has created a buzz to start the conversation. This conversation and the list could also be the beginning of a “what if” conversation that results in a plan. Make the Silver Tsunami just another “Tempest in a Teapot.”
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.