The Unexpected

The Unexpected

We all procrastinate in one way or another. Things we know we should do, but don’t. Plans and preparations we should make, but somehow, we just never do.

Generally speaking, this perpetual “stall” seems based on our expectation that life is just going to move forward without ever really changing. But expectations aren’t always accurate, and circumstances most definitely can change, often in unexpected ways.

Consider the story of the little girl who in 1926 was born into absolutely no fanfare, and she was raised as a normal, albeit fairly privileged, child. It was expected that she would grow up, get married, have children. It was expected that she’d live out her life in relative obscurity. Those expectations, however, were quickly and dramatically changed when this little girl’s uncle decided to quit his job.

The trouble was that her uncle’s job was fairly important, so all his responsibility suddenly fell to this little girl’s father—her uncle’s younger brother—and he handled the job admirably until he died. And here it comes—the unplanned, the unexpected, what had once seemed unimaginable, actually happened: the girl, who was by now a young woman of 25, took one very long walk down the aisle of London’s Westminster Abby where she became known to the world as Elizabeth II, Queen of England. It was a position she would hold for the next 70 years—longer than anyone else in the history of the British monarchy. But back at her birth, absolutely no one saw it coming, so no plans were being made to groom her for that most important role.

In a very similar way, I try to explain to people that becoming someone’s caregiver is not always an “expected” event. Elizabeth’s family never expected her to be queen, but circumstances suddenly changed, forcing members of the Royal family to alter their own vision of the future to accommodate their “new normal.”

My own caregiving journey, detailed in my book Goodnight, Sweet: A Caregiver’s Long Goodbye, clearly shows what happens when the new caregiver is grossly unprepared to take on the role’s responsibilities. I struggled enormously, wanting to do everything right because I loved them so much.

After personally experiencing such a steep learning curve, I wound up writing my second book, Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s or Other Dementia: Everything I Wish I Had Known. This book provides information for those who are suddenly thrust into the caregiver role, as well as direction to help families prepare for any future care needs they may experience.

Hopefully, yours will be the family that never has a need for estate planning documents or a caregiving contingency plan, but the numbers suggest it’s better to go ahead and be ready—just in case:

  • The CDC estimates there are currently 5.8 million people in the U.S. with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias
  • More than 16 million Americans are providing more than 17 billion hours of unpaid care for these patients
  • The Alzheimer’s Association projects that by 2050, the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s will be nearly 13 million

It was never imagined that Elizabeth would be queen, but we see how that turned out, so I am urging you to consider making preparations for the future. It will be epically better for you to have a plan you don’t need, rather than needing a plan you don’t have.


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