Yesterday my daughter and I had the honor of volunteering at an equestrian event for Special Olympics. It was a beautiful spring day and the horses were groomed and dressed in their best blankets and halters. The athletes were primed and ready to demonstrate their well-honed skills in horsemanship and showmanship. The arena was buzzing with proud families and friends.
Those family members, in many cases, were the aging parents of adult athletes. In many instances, the Special Olympics athletes were middle-aged men and women. Some sources estimate that over 75 percent of individuals with developmental disabilities live at home and about one-fourth of those are being cared for by family caregivers over age 60.
This scenario reminds me that in addition to their own aging-related needs, senior parents of special needs children must continue to secure plans for the care and supervision of their adult children well beyond the traditional child-rearing years.
The internet’s caring-related websites are full of tips for the family caregiver such as getting enough rest, eating healthy, staying hydrated, and planning for respite care. However, seniors caring for their adult children have needs that extend beyond the usual tips for taking care of the caregiver and other typical elder services.
If prior arrangements haven’t been made, senior adults should plan for the unexpected and make alternative care arrangements for their special needs child before a care giving crisis arises:
1. Develop a succession plan
2. Have alternative care plans in place
3. Consider plans for special needs trusts or other legal and financial documents
4. Communicate plans to other key family members
5. Develop a respite care plan for you and your spouse
Some suggestions for respite care may include participation in day programs, long-term care facilities, and assistive technology.
It was on honor to serve as a volunteer at our local Special Olympics program. We believe every athlete deserves a gold medal and every supportive family member deserves support and assistance that can help minimize the struggles of a family caregiver.