Caregivers fear the future.
I was 6 or 7 when I encountered this fear in the house where I grew up. If either my older sister or younger brother was sick, Mom would fold a white hankie into the shape of an old-fashioned nurse’s hat and pin it on my head. She would tie a white apron around my waist, hand me a tray with tea and juice, and instruct me to deliver to the sick room.
When I returned the tray to the kitchen, she would say, “Isn’t it fun to be a nurse, Jolene? Wouldn’t you like to be your dad’s nurse when you get older?”
It wasn’t. And I didn’t.
But something in her voice–the same tone she used when she was afraid there wouldn’t be enough money to pay the bills–kept me silent. I was only a little girl, but Mom’s anxiety about who would care for Dad as his multiple sclerosis progressed was palpable.
Mom’s fear of the future didn’t convince any of her children to enter a medical profession, though she made a number of wise financial decisions to ensure Dad had the care he needed until he died in 1997. More than 50 years after Mom sent me down the hall to play nurse, I realized that caregivers fear the future as much as she did.
The realization came during interviews with caregiving parents about the stress they experience. Several parents said that one of their greatest stressors is anxiety about who will care for their children who outlive them and where the money they need to live on will come from.
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