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Who’s On First? Today’s Caregiving Crisis

Abbott and Costello’s 1953 legendary “Who’s on First”  sketch is the perfect analogy for today’s caregiving crisis and nod to the upcoming 2016 baseball playoffs.  Abbott attempts to educate Costello on the craziest baseball players names.  

Costello’s lack of comprehension over the baseball players reminds me of today’s policy makers and healthcare payers about caregiving realities.  So here goes, batter up...

  • “Who’s on First?” Demographic trends of the last fifty years have transformed our world away from a neat and tidy calendar based life cycle.  The median age of first time parents is rising so fast that many of them would qualify as grandparent age of days gone by.  Delaying the first child often means having less children.  On the opposite end of the life cycle we are the inspiring gains in life expectancy.  Many wealthy countries boast of an average life expectancy near 80 years.  

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  • “What’s on Second?”   Abbott and Costello lived when families remained in their hometowns, worshiping in the same parishes with their elders.  Today’s  job mobility and lifestyle choices leads many families to be  disconnected.  Older first time parents are feeling sandwiched between raising a family and caring for aging family members concurrently.  Likewise,  senior adults are eager to remain in the community till death and may not reach out for help for fear of losing their independence.

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  • “I Don’t Know is on Third”  LIke this hilarious skit, caregivers  feel the frustration of not comprehending the language of federal and state laws and complex navigation of the healthcare payers pricing and carved out benefits.   Adult children and other relatives are at a loss of knowing what to do and how to help when they are no longer living near their parents.  

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  • “Left Fielder’s Name, ‘Why?”   Caregivers are leading busy lives with many competing roles so the status of a senior aging in the community may hit like a unexpected left field fly ball.  Senior adults can feel isolated as their abilities decline which can lead to depression.  Yes, many times declining health or a medical crisis appears to come out of left field.   

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  • Then Costello asks: “When you Pay off the first Baseman every month, who get’s the money? Abbott’s reply is:  He’s earned it.”   We all believe that our lifetime of hard work and savings should  yield a dignified and comfortable retirement.   ‘Who’ pays the bill?  If ‘Who’ lacks the funds then caregivers are left searching for other funding sources. One of the most contentious issues in caregiving is financial.  

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  • “PItcher’s Name? Tomorrow”  None of us prepare to become a caregiver.  It happens when least expected.  End of life documents, wills, retirement planning are all tasks that benefit from not waiting for “tomorrow.”

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  • “Catcher’s Name? Today”  The exasperated Costello reaches a breaking point when Abbott names the catcher “today.”  Caregivers, both present and former, know that we need serious policy reform today. The heavy economic, physical and emotional burdens of our broken caregiving system today are no laughing matter.