Monday, May 15, 2023

Age and Privilege

"You've got to do what you can to avoid caregiver fatigue," my dear wife has told me, on repeated occasion.  It's an admirable sentiment, a very self-care thing to say and think, and for many care providers, it's a necessary corrective.  When you're trying to support a loved one who's aging...or suffering from a chronic's easy to get so caught up in the deep forest of their care that you exhaust yourself.

Caregivers become overwhelmed, and their health starts to suffer, and things start to fray.  It's a real thing.  I get that.

Only, well, I ain't in that category.  Not at all.  I'm busy about my folks care, sure.  It takes both mental bandwidth and time.  But I'm not trying to juggle that and care for children, plus a full time job, plus a million other things.  I'm the part time pastor of a lovely little congregation, meaning about twenty hours a week.  And sure, I'm mostly responsible for the cooking and cleaning, the laundry and the bills and the yardwork and the homemaking.  But I don't mind that, and it ain't like it's 1902 and I'm doing laundry by hand.  Machines really do help on that front.

It has meant less writing, sure.  But that is what it is.  Because as much as I love to write, and as much as I've spend the last decade trying to make a go of it as a writer, writing hasn't exactly proven to be a lucrative side-gig.  I figure it's brought in about five thousand a year, if you average it out.  With most of my manuscripts not finding a home, this is more of a hobby than a profession, if I am painfully honest with myself.  It is what happens when life permits.  I didn't write much when the kids were little, either.

But I can't claim any of that is "caregiver fatigue."  Because, again, being utterly frank, I am wildly privileged as a caregiver.  My parents have never lived large, but they've saved large.  They have Dad's retirement income.  They have significant investments.  They own their home, free and clear.  They have great health insurance.  They also have long term care insurance, which may be expensive and a pain to manage, but is now covering about 80% of the cost for home aide support. Eight hours a day, six days a week.

That places them...and an enviable position.  There's no worry about money for care.  We have a team of doctors and PT folks and visiting nurses, home aides and house cleaners and lawn companies, all keeping them comfortable and cared for in the home that they love.

So sure, I spend as much time as a caregiver as I do as a pastor.  I'm taking Dad to appointments, and sorting pills, and managing his caregivers.  I'm paying attention to finances, and helping get taxes done, and managing the snares and tripwires our app-based culture throws in front of the elderly.  

But I am immensely privileged, and it makes the experience of caring for my parents a relative cakewalk.  It's hard, sure.  But it is nowhere close to as draining as it can be for those who are less prepared, or have..for reasons of generational poverty, personal misfortune, or not paying attention...found themselves facing the closing chapter of their life without the resources that make it easier.

That's most people.