The times, they are a-changin.

With industrialization, rapid globalization, and a society that is quickly becoming ruled by technology, our relationships and connections to our families have been completely disrupted.

We have been bred to believe that the keys to happiness include immediate gratification, social status, and material wealth. Mass media teaches us we must consume and keep up with the Joneses to have joy. So, we spend more and more time working and end up with less time for the things we were working so hard for in the first place— If not to keep our heads above water in the here and now, to put it away for a secure future.

If you work hard, you can be and have what you want in life. But then what?

It would appear that the American Dream has a cliff.

Too wrapped up in our own pursuits of the American dream, or perhaps too busy trying to survive, we never think or talk about what will happen to our aging loved ones until it is too late.

The Baby Boom is the modern day Vesuvius. Quietly, the earth rumbles beneath us as an entire generation approach retirement age.

In just ten short years, when all of the baby boomers will be 65 years and over, more than 20 percent of the total U.S. population will be over the age of 65.

The explosive growth of the senior living industry has  completely changed how we believe people go when they get old and need help. It seems like every month, a shiny new Senior Living complex is popping up. It’s no wonder a huge chunk of the population lives with the assumption that the final destination of our loved ones is an assisted living facility or the nursing home.

The long term care system of America is in crisis. There aren’t enough facilities to house everyone who needs long term care, and even if there were, over 90%—in other words, pretty much everyone—of older Americans want to remain in their home.

Meanwhile, the publicly funded system of long term care is constantly being threatened with budget cuts lags behind, desperately searching for ways to meet the growing needs.

Even with all the facilities and willingness in the world, many Americans could never afford long term care. The majority are ignorantly told to liquidate their loved ones assets so they can access Medicaid, failing to realize that many who are deemed eligible for government supports don’t ever receive them. And a lot of cases, it only covers nursing home care. Those who pay for institutional care out of pocket end up bankrupting their estates and breaking time-honored traditions of leaving something behind for the next generation and end up on Medicaid anyway.

With a population of older Americans that is only expected to keep growing at an exponential rate, the overwhelming majority of which will need some level of support, we have to start thinking differently about what long term care really means.

Somehow, somewhere we have become lost. Not too long ago, the only way we cared for our loved ones was at home. Family caregivers are, have always been, and will always be the long term care system of America.

If we continue living under a rock, and we do not keep family caregivers in mind when we are talking about support for our aging population, we are doomed. If our supports remain siloed from the programs and services offered to our carees, we will forever remain an afterthought. If we do not have conversations about how to meet the needs of family caregivers, they will not be ready to step into the recently forgotten rite of passage many experience in adulthood- that of caring for an elder.

We have to start taking advantage of the time we have NOW to prepare for the road ahead.

NOW is the time to start encouraging families to have conversations about “what happens when…” so they won’t be blindsided when crisis comes.

NOW is the time to start exploring how to support our elders and family caregivers with technology so we can mitigate their stress and caregiving burdens.

NOW is the time to establish base command, so family caregivers know where to go when they need help, and the professionals who work with them know where to send them.

That’s why Sandwiched KC is working to support family caregivers.

We know a tidal wave is coming and that’s why we’re getting READY.

We’re busy building a supportive community for ALL family caregivers in the KC metro. We want to welcome, embrace, support, and celebrate family caregivers on their journeys.

Our mission is to create opportunities for family caregivers to find local support and shared wisdom.

Our vision is for family caregivers to

  • recognize their valued role,
  • have opportunities to connect with other family caregivers so they do not feel alone
  • have a chance to share their knowledge and learn new ways of supporting their carees and themselves on their path to the good life.

We do this based on the understanding that supporting families means filling the three buckets:

  • We offer information and education by hosting workshops and training events and creating resources and personalized information and referral
  • We offer connections and networking by hosting our monthly support group and in person events and 1:1 coaching
  • We offer access to high quality goods and services by reviewing and testing commonly used products and programs and connecting FCGs to needed supports

Find out how you can support us.

About Author

Rachel Hiles is a 30-something aspiring local celebrity do-gooder in Kansas City, MO. She has been the primary caregiver for her grandmother since 2015, using the knowledge and experiences gained over the past twelve years building a career helping disabilities at the individual, organizational, and systems levels to help her grandma have a good life and age in place. She is a Certified Caregiving Consultant™, Facilitator™, and Educator™.

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