The perennial millennial. Sandwiched between hard decisions. That’s me.
I do not know how other people in my age group do it, but I’m exhausted.
I can’t, and chose to align with, the whole having children thing. If you had to put me in a category, I guess in today’s terms it would be child-free both by nature and choice. Instead of having kids, I chose to care for my aging loved one after he experienced a stroke to help him rehabilitate and enjoy life to the best of his ability. This is in addition to caring for the family rescue animals- six to be exact- without any hint of assistance from hospice, ihss, the government. You name a social safety net, they couldn’t or wouldn’t help us take care of our loved one. We’re a strong family though, and I knew I couldn’t let him suffer the lack of nurses and the like, so I stepped in to take on the role of physical therapist, medical advocate, hand holder during all medical appointments, the person who put his eyedrops in after cataract surgery, the person that would clean him intimately on a daily basis to ensure he didn’t develop bedsores from his half hearted swipes with a washcloth. At his insistence, (and giving me the warm fuzzies) he demanded that I attend all of his medical appointments with him “or he wouldn’t go.” I attended every bank meeting, legal team conference, end of life planning call, and drove him to every appointment that we could get him to agree to.
How do you do all of that and retain some sense of who you are and where you want to go with life?
It’s a question I’m still trying to solve. I let go of so many career opportunities and gave my employers the short end of my candlestick for over five years, and now that I’m no longer a caregiver, I don’t know how to pick it all back up again. I am trying to craft stories and news articles on a brain that still waits to be called for a catheter bag change or a midnight nightmare by someone that loved me but no longer exists. The plans he carefully laid when he officially accepted me as one of his beloved family members might not go the way he intended, and I feel so torn about that.
Make sure you don’t rely on a trust or will lawyer to always be on top of every little detail. Those things matter. They can alter someone’s entire plan, and that is a ripple effect.
As a millennial caregiver, I had really no legal experience starting this journey with my family. I know how to do my job, I know how to clean up feces and clear out a blocked catheter valve with a plunger. I don’t know the ins and outs of the legal system. Without dragging this on, I just want to emphasize heavily- if you’re a caregiver and assisting with an estate plan or the like, ensure that the lawyers truly have your best interests at heart. Don’t assume that they are infallible. With most of us caregivers on low income, it’s tough to pay for great legal advice, but ensure that if your loved ones have unfinished legal affairs you wrap it up ASAP. With revocable trusts, for instance, you can’t make any changes or even *correction of mistakes made by the presiding legal aid* once that person is deceased. It’s a hard discussion, but do it.
Try to breathe if you’re exhausted- and let’s face facts, if you’re trying to have a semblance of a life or career in your 30–40 zone and also full time caregiving, you’re probably exhausted. That means you’ll be prone to miss details, again, especially if you are like so many who don’t specialize in estate law. This is, at the end of the day, a privileged conversation to even be having. It’s becoming less and less common for estates to have anything left after medical bills, nursing home bills, and more come to bite off their piece.
If you’re a millennial caregiver, follow me as I share memories, tips, and more. And hang in there, sunshine. You can do this.