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The First Step

My oldest son, Josh, works in my office. Once a year, he and I retire to the woods to review the office for the year. It helps us make a plan for the upcoming year.

As I write this, Josh and I are conducting our annual meeting. This year, however, a very cold front and snowstorm has left us with five-degree weather. We have been cooped up for a couple days. Josh’s dog, Kolbe is with us. Two days indoors without a walk has left Kolbe pacing the floor.

So, I decided to take Kolbe for a walk.

I was not particularly excited about going outside. But for Kolbe’s sake, I bundled up, put on a stocking cap, and found some not so heavy gloves to wear. Out the door we went.

Within 20 yards of the house, I realized a couple things: it was really, really, cold; and my coat was not near as warm as I had hoped.

I started to rethink my decision to walk this cold day, but Kolbe was so excited to finally be out. Into the snow and cold I continued—thinking this is the kind of weather that I could die in!

After about 10 minutes, I began to both warm up and adjust to the cold. Kolbe and I walked for 40 minutes or so through the woods. Yes, it was cold and the wind biting, but it was a beautiful and satisfying walk.

It reminded me of a phone call that Josh had engaged in earlier this same day. I do not know all of the details yet, but a woman had called our office the day before. Her husband has Alzheimer’s, and has had it for some time. I think the initial phone call to our office was a cry for help, but she was not ready to do anything yet. Josh decided to call her this morning as a follow-up. He talked to her about what was going on. She was overwhelmed, and in fact paralyzed, and did not know when, if, or about what type of help she wanted, or needed. After a while, she agreed to an appointment. It was a great first step.

When facing chronic illness, there are so many moving parts: The chronic illness/disease itself; its progression and what that is going to look like; available health care alternatives; fragmented health care; accessing health and care resources; paying for care; family support or lack of support; cost of care; legal implications and necessary documents; insurance coverage; assuring good care; finding the best care; and caregiver burnout and management. Establishing a comprehensive plan that addresses those components is important.

What is the first step? Make an appointment with an elder law attorney, one that can create a roadmap for you and who can guide you through the process.

I know this sounds self-serving, and it is, but it also comes from the heart. I was involved in the same situation, as a caregiver. I was so involved that I felt overwhelmed, drowning, and at times paralyzed facing decisions.

Luckily, I found a great support system through a care coordinator, and some legal help through my office, but the first step was for me to reach out to those resources.

While making the appointment is not the only thing you need to do, it is the first step, and I know it is hard, but go that first step. At least find out what your alternatives are, and then you can move to the next step.

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