Women's Retirement Radio

Lisa Kaufman - The Caregiver Series Part 1 - Episode 44

December 13, 2021 Russ Thornton Season 2 Episode 28
Women's Retirement Radio
Lisa Kaufman - The Caregiver Series Part 1 - Episode 44
Show Notes Transcript

A few weeks ago, one of my listeners suggested a series of conversations on what it means for a woman to become a caregiver.

So I'm happy to kick off "The Caregiver Series" with Lisa Kaufman, owner of SeniorCare Options in Atlanta. You may recall a conversation I had with Lisa in episode 19. back in June 2021.

In this conversation, Lisa and I set the stage for future episodes in the series and some of the topics we'll be exploring further.

Get in touch and let me know what you think or if you have any questions.

And thank you for listening.

Visit my website to learn more.

Disclosures




Russ Thornton:
Hey everyone. It is Russ Thornton. And welcome to another episode of Women's Retirement Radio, today, doing something a little bit different, something that I'm excited about. I'm excited to be joined by Lisa Kaufman. Hi Lisa?

Lisa Kaufman:
Hi. Glad to be here, Russ.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah, I'm so excited that you're joining us. So today's episode is going to be the first, of what I hope will be several installments or several conversations around the idea of serving as a caregiver. And that can be a caregiver for a spouse, for an aging parent, for a loved one or friend. And what really prompted this was some really welcome feedback from a listener who said, and I read, "One thing you might think about is a series directed towards women who are left in a caregiver role. Increasingly it seems I know, or have heard of women that aren't divorced, but are being put in the position of making decisions as the caregiver, and then subsequently having to make decisions on how to manage the finances they've been left with good or bad. While it has some similarities, it's also a bit different than being divorced. Just a thought."

Russ Thornton:
So I'm excited to have Lisa. Lisa, by the way, joined us on episode 19. So please go back and listen to that. And you can hear all about Lisa, her expertise, the work she does, the people on her team, et cetera. Having said that, Lisa, why don't you give us a quick intro to who you are and what it is you do?

Lisa Kaufman:
Okay. Thank you again. It's great to be here. I'm excited about this. I love that question from one of your, I guess subscribers. I am an Aging Life Care Manager. Some people may know that as a geriatric care manager, the really quick story is it's almost like a daughter for hire. We are clinicians who are familiar with aging care and healthcare who serve as patient advocates. We do a thorough needs analysis and we do some crisis management and case coordination.

Lisa Kaufman:
So all of various pieces, we're here to really help quarterback or one person put it where the air traffic controller for somebody's care, so that we can help the person who's the primary caregiver, make good decisions about the one they're caring for.

Russ Thornton:
And again, there's no better person to have joining me to kick off this series of conversations with Lisa because of the background she just shared. And I can speak firsthand having seen Lisa at work with some of my clients. She's even done some help for my family personally, and she's a wonderful resource. So really excited to have her joining us.

Russ Thornton:
And what we wanted do to kick things off. And Lisa and I were joking before we hit record, like we could easily get into the weeds and turn this into an hour's long conversation, but we're trying to very deliberately keep this short succinct, concise, and leave plenty to cover in future conversations with Lisa and with some other professionals that we hope to bring into the conversation as well.

Russ Thornton:
But the first question we're going to start with is what Lisa referred to as the big one, which is if you need to care for spouse or another loved one, how do you know when it's time... And for this example we'll use the spouse. So we're talking about caregiving for a spouse. How do you know when it's time to move your spouse into a care facility? So Lisa, why don't you kick things off there?

Lisa Kaufman:
All right. And it is the big one because it's such a loaded question and loaded topic. And I think that's probably one of the primary topics that people are concerned about, how do I know when it's the right time? That's a tough one to tackle. So one way you can help to know is certainly getting a care manager like myself and not plugging me, but having an expert, take a look at what's going on, how are things happening in the home? Who's providing care, how much care is needed? Are you feeling burnt out? Are you hiring more care and it's starting to be more expensive and you're becoming or burnt out as your loved one's dementia is changing?

Lisa Kaufman:
Those are all variables that go into the decision of, is it time to make a major change? Like a move into an assisted living or hiring care for the home? It's really a tough place to be. I sometimes share with families that the parable of the frog and the pot. I'm going to give a quick... I'm sure that you've heard this, or we've talked about this, but I'll go ahead for those who haven't heard of this, that if you put a frog in a pot and the water is already boiling, you've put the frog in. He's going to hop right out. It's too hot. You put a frog in a pot of just tap water and you turn on heat, it will reach boiling. And the frog won't notice the temperature change until it's too late and then there are soup.

Lisa Kaufman:
So I think caregiving is similar in some ways that there are gradual changes over time that we don't notice all of a sudden we are in over our heads because it's been... We're adapting and it's been such a gradual change that we just keep doing what we've been doing until we get to a place where we're burnt out. So if you came to caregiving from a sudden change, maybe like a stroke or something, that it's a huge difference. It's easier to see than dementia, which is so insidious and has such a long trajectory. Sometimes it's hard to know where is that line? So you have to decide for yourself and having a support, an advisor help you determine where is my line because everybody's a little bit different.

Lisa Kaufman:
But some things to look at would be the cost of care, how much personal care activities of daily living care, your loved one needs and how comfortable are you and they are with you providing that? So for spouses, that threshold may be different than for adult children. For example, an adult child say a son who has to provide personal care for his mother and personal care we're talking toileting, bathing, that kind of stuff. There may not be a comfort level with that and there is no judgment about that. That may be that line for that individual or that caregiving partnership. Whereas for a spouse, it might not be that big, an issue of comfort level, unless there's a place where the patient will just refer to that. The patient of the couple is no longer recognizing who this is or is having some issues around bathing or toileting that you might want somebody else who's trained to do that. Does that make sense, Russ?

Russ Thornton:
It does. And a couple things that you shared that I really want to highlight. While I completely agree that there's tremendous value in bringing an expert to the table, someone that's seen and gone through and had these discussions in the past is super important. I think another possibly just as important factor is the objectivity. Because you're bringing in someone like Lisa or another professional that not only has experience, but also is not as emotionally invested in the relationship that does not bring family history, family dynamics to the table, things like that, which know Lisa you and I have discussed before.

Lisa Kaufman:
Yeah, we have.

Russ Thornton:
At length. Could you share just kind of your perspective or your experience on some of the emotions that are typically surfacing when a spouse is faced with this decision and ways to maybe think about or to maybe try to reconcile those emotions?

Lisa Kaufman:
I think the biggest one that I hear most commonly and that it just makes the most sense is guilt. There's sadness and anger in there as well. And one of the things that I try to do with guilt is for the family member, whether it's a spouse or a child, this is a disease, whatever it is that's causing cognitive changes. If it's some kind of dementia, some kind of cognitive deficit, if it was an injury or an illness that is the most common way that older people develop cognitive impairment, it's nobody's fault, especially the disease process. Alzheimer's being the most common disease causing some kind of dementia. It just is what it is.

Lisa Kaufman:
So feeling guilty that you're not doing enough or that you're not fixing it or that you're not somehow putting the pressure on yourself, that you should be able to make it better or compensate for that person's deficits. That's a slippery slope, but a lot of people feel tremendous guilt. My feeling is on this. If you didn't break it, don't feel guilty about it. It's putting a lot of pressure on yourself and it's unrealistic and the expectations are so high.

Lisa Kaufman:
I think it's easier to reconcile that you're sad. This is not what I wanted. I didn't want to be in this position. I wanted to be with my partner in my retirement and here I am a caregiver and we're not traveling. And this is not what I thought was coming at all. Well, then you're angry, and sad, and disappointed, and frustrated. There are a lot of other emotions that you can address and label and maybe speak to a counselor about these feelings rather than guilt, which just kind of comes right back inside where you're not enough and that's not true.

Lisa Kaufman:
It's also important to remember that there's a lot of care out there, especially when we feel guilty, like we need to be doing everything to make this better. No, it takes a village. You need a team approach to care for another adult human being. Who's no longer able to care for themselves. It is not something that one individual can really do in a healthy way.

Lisa Kaufman:
When you think about care, that's provided in assisted livings, they have three shifts a day or hospitals. They have three shifts. So when you're at home and you're on 24/7, you don't have a break. Well, we all need a break. We need to sleep. We need time away. And then time with that individual. So when you're feeling so guilty or maybe controlling that nobody can do it the way you would do it. That may be true, but people are trained to provide the level of care that's needed. You will always know you're a loved one better than anybody else, but other people will how to provide care for them. And that should help.

Russ Thornton:
Yeah. And thank you for that. A couple of things that you mentioned that I want to highlight. So for folks that I work with like my clients, we spend a lot of time planning and thinking about the future, thinking both about what we want to have happen, as well as thinking about what may happen. I don't think anyone that's in good health today would ever... The idea might enter their mind. Like what happens if I have to be in a caregiving role or my spouse, or loved one suffers cognitive decline, or has a physical situation where they need some kind of care beyond what I can provide. And I think that's a great reminder about the need to be flexible in your thinking in your planning.

Russ Thornton:
And so I think everything we're talking about could be encapsulated in that idea of willing to be flexible and not to Lisa's point, not feeling like you have to shoulder or take the burden on yourself completely. One analogy I use, which is overused at this point is, if you ever fly commercial, they always tell, you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help others.

Lisa Kaufman:
Yes.

Russ Thornton:
Nowhere is that more appropriate than in the situation that we're talking about?

Lisa Kaufman:
Absolutely. Absolutely. It's a great analogy. I think everybody can really understand that. I see it as if you are taking care of yourself and taking care of another person, you are burning the candle at both ends. And you can do that for short periods of time, but not for long periods of time. Our bodies are not built for that. And as we are aging, if you're caring for a spouse and you both have health concerns, it can create a tipping point very quickly.

Lisa Kaufman:
And there are some frightening statistics which, don't ask me to quote, I might have to look it up, but I know that caregivers caring for somebody who has some kind of dementia are much more likely to become sick and ill and need their own care. Or, and I hate this part. They died before the person they were taken care of because they've burnt themselves out. They've made themselves sick. They had a heart attack, they had a stroke, something happened. And now the person who relied on that primary caregiver doesn't have them anymore because they took it all on and didn't accept or look for help or some... That's a judgment, but not enough help was there and they had too much on their plate.

Russ Thornton:
What we want to this discuss in a future part of this conversation for another time is addressing more of the financial aspects.

Lisa Kaufman:
Yes.

Russ Thornton:
Because beyond just the emotional toll, which can turn into physical and mental wear and tear on the caregiver, you also need to make sure that you don't jeopardize your own finances.

Lisa Kaufman:
Oh, absolutely.

Russ Thornton:
In the effort to care for your spouse or your loved one.

Lisa Kaufman:
Or your parent to that point. I've worked with families in the past that they retired early. They were still in their primary earning, the high earning potential years, middle age, hello. So they retired early to their own detriment so that they could take care of their loved ones so their loved one didn't have to spend any money. I'm, as the objective person, I'm like, "This doesn't make any financial sense." It does for that person that you're saving them the care, but they will die one day, we all will. And here you have missed out on your earning potential and your own retirement savings. And I think that it's a difficult and very personal choice, but there are alternatives to that.

Russ Thornton:
There absolutely are. And again, those are things we'll tackle in a future part of this series of conversations. But I think today, we really wanted to just set the groundwork or set the table for this huge issue that more and more people are dealing with. As a backdrop to all this, because of it advances in technology and medicine, people are living longer. The challenge is they're not always living longer in a healthy...

Lisa Kaufman:
They're not living well.

Russ Thornton:
Right, they're not living well. They don't have their mobility. They don't have their health. They're going to have to rely increasingly on family or the healthcare system to care for them. And there's a lot of moving parts there. Not the least of which are the finances, the emotions, the self care in that process. And those are all things we want to address in future installments in this series. So I think today we've done a pretty good job of kicking things off, Lisa. Anything else you'd like to add or any closing thoughts for conversation today?

Lisa Kaufman:
Oh God, I have a lot, but we're not in it alone. And to not isolate yourself. We've been isolated for two years now. And there is a huge burden that caregivers especially are feeling during this time because continues. We're still aging in place or illness or whatever. Still keeps going. Even though we were locked down and now people have been largely isolated and social norms are not what they were care is still available. A team approach is still available. I think right before Thanksgiving, I have no idea when this is going to be posting, having a conversation with your family is a tough conversation, but it's a very real authentic, genuine way to touch base with your family to talk about what are you worried about? What do you want? What do you want for your loved one? So many of us assume that somebody knows what our wishes are, or they're afraid to have the conversation because they're superstitious it will bring something on, it won't. Have the conversation, just start the dialogue decisions do not need to be made. Just make it open to have that conversation.

Russ Thornton:
I could agree more. I think that's a great parting thought and a great place to wrap up this first conversation. First of several I hope.

Lisa Kaufman:
Yeah.

Russ Thornton:
Lisa, thank you. This is fun. Always enjoy talking with you. I'm super happy to be working on this little project with you too. So thanks for joining us. And for everyone out there listening, we would love your feedback. So if you listen to this, if this spurs additional questions or thoughts or comments, please get in touch. Let me know. Otherwise, I appreciate you listening in and look forward to catching you on the next episode of Women's Retirement Radio.

Lisa Kaufman:
Awesome. Thanks Russ.

Russ Thornton:
Thanks, Lisa.