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The caregiving continuum consists of three stages:
Many of us would respond in disbelief if someone told us, “One day, you will be a caregiver.” Most of us never expect to be a caregiver. Yet, many of us, despite the “busyness” in our lives, take a detour as we follow our own path to caring for a loved one.
Rarely are the steps taken definable as we answer the noble call of caregiving. While each of us steps forward in a time of need, the paths we take are unique. Some of us are thrown into the role of “accidental caregiver” when no one else steps forward. Others of us gradually grow into the role after visiting Mom and realizing over the years that something must be done.
Caregiving encompasses a broad range of duties. It often starts when you care for a loved one at home, from a distance, or with help provided by an in-home care service and/or the use of adult day care services. As your loved one's care needs grow, you have choices – the homey environment of a residential care home or an assisted living community. When your loved one's condition declines further, you may need 24-hour skilled nursing care. Finally, while your loved one's life draws to a close, palliative care offered by hospice is a welcome partner in care.
Along the caregiving journey, you may need an elder law attorney to help you set up an estate plan and a durable power of attorney for healthcare, and an accountant or a tax advisor to help you manage your loved one's finances.
While caring for another, you must be careful to take care of yourself through respite, support, and the use of the resources noted above. Otherwise, you'll never make it to the third and final stage of the caregiving continuum.
Just as the journey leading to caregiving is unique; so is the journey after caregiving. Although, the statistics paint a grim picture of how many caregivers outlive or survive the experience; those who do, take each day at a time as lives are carefully reconstructed without the day-to-day needs of loved ones.
There are no guidelines and each of us follows a different path. Some of us believe, Once a caregiver, always a caregiver. Many of us benefit others with our knowledge and experience. We coach caregivers, volunteer at local organizations, or write books and speak about our experience. Others of us choose to let time do the healing as other demands fill the void in our lives.
The important point is to recognize the three primary stages of the caregiving continuum. While caregiving we need to use the many resources available and ensure that we take care of ourselves in order to survive the experience.
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