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When we enter into an agreement to love another, whether it is in choosing to parent a child or two people deciding to be together, there is a sometimes spoken and always unspoken commitment to care for each other.

Though it is probably for the best, for most of us, our early days living inside this unique relationship are cotton candy colored story frames. We embrace the “for better” and wear blinders to “for worse.” After all, who wants to embark on such a commitment thinking something terribly challenging could occur?

Some are lucky and do not have to face caring for a child, parent or partner suffering from an illness. But life doesn’t deal that hand to all of us. How prepared are you to are for an aging parent, child or life partner? It’s not something fun to consider. Certainly, my late husband and I had very few conversations about what if something went wrong. We were young, living a healthy lifestyle and in love. We had our whole lives ahead…until he was diagnosed with cancer just over four years into our marriage.

Gary and I both believed that our word was the most valuable thing we had to give. I had given him mine that I would be there “for better or for worse”…no matter what. We’d taken a leap of faith when we made that promise and neither of us knew until cancer hit what it would take to keep it. How prepared are you financially, legally, emotionally and spiritually to be there if you are suddenly faced with caring for a loved one.

  • Financially – take an inventory. Is there the right amount of life, health, disability and long term care insurance? How many months of emergency funds are available in accessible savings?
  • Legally – do you or your loved ones have the right power of attorney, health directives and other legal documents in place so everyone is clear on the choices and decisions that may need to be made if all does not go well?
  • Emotionally – do you have the kind of communication skills, compassion, tough love limits and self-care awareness in place to support you if you must take on the role of caregiver? Do you understand how to maintain balance and manage your own well-being? Is there a plan as to who might care for you if you become ill while looking after a loved one?
  • Spiritually – are you clear on your life purpose and able to integrate it into the challenges of care giving so your “I” does not become lost in the process? What kind of support do you have access to restore your energy when you’ve given too much?

Conscious care giving can begin before a crisis hits. The first step is to have open conversations up front with aging parents or life partners. Clearly understand the available resources and expectations. Co-create a plan together. If you find yourself facing a care giving challenge without first having had the opportunity to discuss these issues, then take advantage of the checklist above and visit it as soon as possible with your loved one.

When facing a life threatening disease, things change and we often experience loss. Loss of finances, loss of a trust in our body, loss of wellbeing, loss of energy, loss of intimacy, loss of career. For coaching based support, check out my course on Daily Om, Grief as a Pathway to Transformation for as low as $10.

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