Preparing for Transitions

How prepared are we for life transitions? 

Early on in my social work career, when I was employed by the provincial government, I was invited to information sessions on retirement. At the time I was young and I wondered “why should I go to a retirement seminar?”  Afterall – retirement was years, even decades away; and as an ‘in-the-moment’ person I had never been a long-range planner – for anything. It would be accurate to say I was not preparing for transitions, including preparing for retirement.

Planning for Retirement

Person inserting coins into a blue ceramic piggy bank - with text "How will you spend your retirement?"

Now on the cusp of retirement, my view has changed.  I realize I should have been more interested and ‘invested’ in learning about this future chapter of my life.  It is important!

The information was readily available; the opportunity to ask questions was presented; and the pre-retirement tools were accessible.  My desire and interest, however, were non-existent.

Preparing for Caregiving

As I work with caregivers, I have noticed that society often embraces a similar view towards caregiving. Even though many of us will be faced with caregiving at some point in our lives we generally are not prepared to care. Caregiving may not even be on our radar.  For those who have thought about it – we may consider it to be far off in the distant future. We don’t dwell on it. However, the reality is, at the very least, our parents are going to age; and when they do, they may require help and care.  Especially in a time when populations are living longer.

There’s a quote by Rosalynn Carter pertaining to caregiving. This quote is profound!

“There are only four kinds of people in this world:

Those who have been caregivers

Those who are currently caregivers

Those who will be caregivers

And those who will need caregivers.”

Rosalynn Carter

If we subscribe to what Rosalynn Carter was saying, it is in our best interest to make sure that caregiving is on our radar.  We need to prepare to care.

Prepare to Care

In the Island Treasures podcast epsiode, “Through the Lens of a Long-Haul Caregiver” I had an informative and insightful conversation with Chandra White-Cummings.  Chandra talked about being prepared to care. 

How do we prepare to care? We start by talking about it!

Let’s start by familiarizing our kids with the concept of caring for others from a young age.  Chandra suggests we “Set up an environment… to get ourselves ready to care about people and for people”. 

Getting ourselves ready for a future caregiving opportunity means we learn as much as we can, in advance.  Find what resources are available locally or virtually. Take the opportunity to learn about disease processes, stages of caregiving, and supports we can access. This is the time we think about who we may want to have on our caregiving team. It is also the time to have conversations with family members about their wishes for their future health care needs. This is advance care planning. Just like preparing for retirement – caregiving doesn’t have to be something we fear. 

Resources

Finding what resources are available may take a little exploration; but there are resources to help us prepare for care and to prepare for retirement.

Instructor pointing to screen with options for living Independently or in care

Here are a few examples of resources.

Resources for Caregiving Planning:

  • a caregiver consultant,
  • caregivers (present or past),
  • information sessions from the Alzheimer’s Association or Alzheimer’s Society,
  • information sessions from disease-specific groups,
  • books,
  • podcasts,
  • caregiver support groups,
  • online forums, etc.

Resources for Retirement Planning:

  • financial advisors,
  • employer-provided workshops,
  • information sessions,
  • retired folks,
  • books,
  • podcasts,
  • seminars,
  • pre-retirement workbooks, etc.
  • the Government,
  • online searches, etc.

When we are open to accessing these resources and learning from them, we can effectively plan and prepare for these life transitions. First, we need to accept that changes will be coming – at some point. With caregiving, we never know exactly when the call may come. That call that requires we step into a caregiving role – unlike with retirement’s predictability.

In addition to accepting that change is inevitable – it helps to be adaptable.  As we prepare for these life transitions we can set ourselves up for a more positive experience. Just like preparing for retirement, we can invest in our future caregiving opportunities by preparing for them. 

Preparation helps us be proactive; and being proactive means we’re not in denial that something is occuring or may occur. I admit I was in denial as my retirement seemed so far off in the future. It didn’t occur to me that one day retirement would happen to me.

Perhaps, like me, you are on the cusp of retirement; or sailing along in your youth believing retirement and caregiving are distant possibilities… or realities. There is value in preparing for transitions; and now is the time to prepare to care about caregiving and retirement. As we adopt an expectant attitude, and remember Rosalynn Carter’s quote, it’s best to be prepared as much as possible!

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