Numbers Games

Statistics have always annoyed me. Depending on who is providing them and what the agenda is, numbers can be used in all kinds of unsavory ways to persuade people to do things that may not be in their best interest.

I’ve also learned that no matter how you present compelling data, you will not influence anyone to change their mind unless there’s a good story to illustrate exactly what the numbers mean.

Here are some numbers that I find troubling and I am going to attempt to show you WHY you should find them troubling too.

10,000 people are turning 65 every day in the USA, and that will keep happening through 2030.

That means 3.65 MILLION PEOPLE are becoming eligible for Medicare every year, and 70% of them will have a long term care event. Long term care events (incapacity that requires assistance from another person) are not covered by Medicare. And these sick people are likely to live into their 80s and longer with deteriorating health, escalating expenses, and requiring that they receive help from others to get through their days. Where will they get this help? Will you be a helper? Will you, yourself, require care?

Over 40 million people in the US are family caregivers, most of them working and/or running businesses.

What’s the problem there? Family caregivers rarely get paid for their services, wind up paying for many of their loved one’s needs, often suffering illnesses and stress without getting proper care themselves. Many of them are Baby Boomers and Generation Xers. A growing segment is Millennials, and they are not getting the support they need. Being younger, they tend to believe they are invincible and don’t ask for help until they are in crisis.

Approximately half of family caregivers of people with dementia die before the people they are caring for. (For spouses in that position, the number is 63%).

If that doesn’t give you a panic attack, consider this: if the primary caregiver of a person with dementia dies, what happens to that person who needs care? SOMEONE will have to step up and fill in. Will it be you? The state? No one? Are any of those scenarios even remotely acceptable to you? Me neither.

What can you do?

  1. Get educated. There are things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones, but you have to get moving BEFORE crisis strikes. Human beings don’t like to be proactive. They would rather deny that there could be a problem, and when they can no longer deny the truth, they will procrastinate on taking meaningful action. Finding out what needs to be done while you and those you care about are still healthy gives you leverage and choice.
  2. Be courageous. Initiate the tough talk BEFORE crisis strikes. (But back off when you get pushback and try again when things cool down. Don’t give up!).
  3. Team up. It’s easier to make meaningful progress with another grown up in your corner. Seek out people who are respected by those you are trying to persuade.

Three problems Three steps to start addressing them. Sounds easy, right? Spoiler alert: it’s not. But if you want a “cheat sheet,” ask for this awesome FREE eBook: “8 Topics You Must Discuss.” It will help you get started with those three items on the to-do list above.

Want a good story that illustrates why being proactive is a great idea? Read my book, “Dementia Sucks.”

And if you’d rather not do anything right now, know that you’re in the majority. And that’s fine. You could, conceivably, beat the odds. Or you could be another sad statistic.

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The Myth of Retirement

Once upon a time, I believed what I saw on TV. When I heard the term “retirement,” it brought a most pleasant time of life to mind. I watched my parents get there. I was happy for them when they’d arrived. Having worked hard all of their lives, it was nice to see them living it up and enjoying themselves.

The myth of retirement looks something like this:

  1. You stop working
  2. Start spending money
  3. Spoil your kids and grandkids
  4. Travel
  5. Do all the things you dreamed of doing when you were working and couldn’t
  6. Die peacefully in your own bed
  7. Angels escort you to heaven; cue heavenly choir

Unfortunately, for most people, this is fantasy. If you’re lucky, and you managed to put some money away, then steps 1 through 5 are certainly a possibility. However, there’s a significant step that no one wants to consider before you get to 6 (and your step 6 may not be “peaceful” or “in your own bed,” either).

For the vast majority of us, there will be a period of 20 to 30 years of “post retirement.” This is that sad time when we’re no longer able to travel at will and do whatever we want, because we’re sick or disabled. We are seeing doctors more than our loved ones. The time and expense of these visits puts a strain on our assets and our energy reserves.

If this is bumming you out, I apologize, but, dear reader, you need to wake up. Very few people have the luxury of going to bed healthy and happy and simply not waking up.

So here’s a suggestion: read a book that will introduce you, gently, to some harsh realities. Sit with the feeling for a little while. Then take action. Review the 8 Topics (they’re in the book). And if you want help from there, ask for it. Don’t myth out.

“You’ve Got to Write a Book!”

For years, people would tell me I had to write a book. And I used to smile and nod and say “some day.”

The funny thing is, I write all the time. From the time I was a tormented geek in public school, I kept diaries and journals. In my teens, I wrote songs. “Take your broken heart and turn it into art” was a concept I always embraced.

When my father got sick (2003 – 2004) I saw a therapist who suggested I “journal” as an outlet. It was a great (if obvious) idea. I kept a book of ravings and doodles.

Caregiving my mother in the years following my father’s death was particularly challenging because I did it on and off for years (2004 – 2015). When I was confronted with being alone with her for the last time in her apartment in Florida, I felt like writing a journal was necessary for my survival. This time, I decided to blog. I thought what I was learning could have value for others, so I put it out for the world to see. I had some followers. And the experience was cathartic.

The blog ended when my mother did, in April 2015. Two years later, having some distance from the content, I was able to read it objectively. I liked it. And I’ve got pretty high standards.

I thought “Wow. My book is already written!” It needed some massaging and tweaking, but I felt like I had a great starting place.

So I got to work and put together a manuscript. Spending the first 5 months of 2017 caregiving my husband, I had time at odd hours to work on it. I shared the first draft with my niece, Jessica, who is a very smart, savvy and no-BS gal. She loved it and remarked that she thought people her age (mid-20s) would enjoy it. That was all the encouragement I needed.

I committed to getting the book published in 2017. Taking Jess’s feedback, I trimmed and smoothed some more. I bought a copy of “The Writer’s Market” and devoured the advice. I went to bookstores to do market research. I scanned the web for other books like mine. (And I can state with some confidence, there is no other book quite like mine).

Having attended my share of business meetings, I am on the lists of many coaches and lecturers. One of these fine folks blogged about his experiences writing a book and getting it published. He spoke of a type of professional I had never heard of before: “Book Shepherd.” These are professionals who know the current publishing landscape and help new authors find publishers. This fellow had gotten an offer on his own, but didn’t feel good about it. Connecting with his Book Shepherd, he soon had a better deal.

Why couldn’t I do the same? I reached out to this “Book Shepherd,” Debby Englander, and she invited me to send her what I had. I did. She loved it. She sent me a very fair contract. I signed it. She wrote a “mini-proposal” to a publisher she thought was a good fit. Turned out, she was right. Twenty days after we connected, I had a deal.

I even got to meet my publisher. Post Hill Press has offices in Brentwood, TN. They’re just 5 minutes from my dear friend who lives in Franklin. I already had plans to visit in August, so it was a very easy meeting to arrange.

My book, “Dementia Sucks; A Caregiver’s Journey with Lessons Learned” will be unleashed upon the world in May. My story of love, humor, heart-break, resilience in the face of a complex and cruel system and dogged insistence on the need for planning will be available everywhere fine paperbacks are sold.

Advance orders will be encouraged. Prizes will be offered. And the best gift of all, a great story, well-told, will be available for your consideration very soon. Follow this blog to be notified, or better yet, join the “family.”  There’s even a Facebook page for you to “Like.” Thanks for your support!