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Q&A with Joy Loverde author of, Who Will Take Care of Me When I'm Old

April 2018 | Joy Loverde

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Forty years’ worth of interacting with thousands of people, young and old, led me to a profound reality and critical need that is even more significant and complex than family caregiving: aging and dying alone, and no one cares.

What was your inspiration for writing the book, “Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old?”

A nursing-home visit as a 14-year-old high school volunteer opened my eyes to a disturbing gap in the process of preparing for old age. Little did I realize that witnessing seven lonely residents sitting in the dark on that Thanksgiving morning would change my life forever. In an instant I knew something was terribly wrong.

Right then and there I committed to keeping people engaged and connected until they take their final breath. Knowing that planning is a key factor in creating a long-term quality of life, I wrote The Complete Eldercare Planner now in its sixth edition.  

I have a reputation for being a path carver and a visionary when it comes to active aging. When The Planner was first published, I took to the road giving aging-related keynotes and workshops. Soon after, something interesting began to take place. People who had come to one of my events to hear me speak, approached me at the end of every presentation. “Downright terrified” and “scared of being old and alone” is how they described their later years’ endgame. They would explain, “My parent/spouse/partner is well taken care of, but who will be there for me when I need help?”

Forty years’ worth of interacting with thousands of people, young and old, led me to a profound reality and critical need that is even more significant and complex than family caregiving: aging and dying alone, and no one cares.

Solo, single or married, no one is immune to the vulnerabilities associated with living a solitary life in old age. My new book, Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old? aims to change all that.

Is the question of who will care for an aging society a new question or one that society has always struggled to answer?

There is a big difference in the process of planning for retirement and planning for aging solo. Until my new book hit the market, the real and fundamental questions of old age had not been asked. In the meantime, millions of people assume that neighborhood resources are plentiful, and the government will ultimately come to their rescue. They could not be more mistaken.

The nuclear family is in meltdown.  In two years (2020) there will be 331 million single households globally. Today, nearly a third of America’s population aged 45 to 63 is single, and as this trend escalates, millions of people over 65 are at risk – physically, financially, emotionally, and otherwise. People who are aging solo are increasingly more vulnerable. Not only do they lack assistance for their basic needs, they combat loneliness and depression, including many who are challenged with dementia and have no one to help them make decisions.

Committed couples aren’t out of the woods, either.  If one partner suffers from a chronic illness, the other partner represents the first line of defense. However, when both need care simultaneously, all bets are off.  Bearing offspring is also no guarantee of being cared for by family. Far-flung adult children are known to move away from parents (even a half-world away) to pursue dreams of their own.

Adding fuel to the fire is the decline in the number of people available to provide in-home care, including family members. The aging of Boomers (77 million born between 1945 and 1964) has spawned a new phenomenon: caregiver shortage. Age, longevity, and singledom, is a recipe for disaster. Entire neighborhoods will have no choice but to pitch in to care for its residents; but how?

What are the two main ideas that readers can expect to gain from your book?

In order to answer your question, it’s important to note that people of all ages are reading my book – for different reasons. The Boomers are facing old age front and center, and looking for tips and resources on every possible scenario that life dishes out as they age.

Besides Boomers, Millennial readers have personally contacted me to let me know they are finding peace of mind by planning ahead. They tell me that marriage and having children is not necessarily on the horizon, and they are looking to do everything possible now to create a quality of life for themselves later on.

What I have learned from the old people in my life is that aging has everything to do with attitude. The first section of the book titled “Personal Readiness” ensures that your mindset won’t fail you no matter what happens on your journey to old age. This is the part of the book that offers insights on dealing with change and transitions, sharpening critical thinking skills, and thriving in times of uncertainty.  All-in-all, readers will find that every page leads them to self-assess if what they are doing today will lead them to a quality tomorrow.

As a side note, I’ve also been told that they like my sense of humor and conversational tone, as though I’m a good friend sitting down next to them while they read the book.

How have your own views on aging and caregiving changed over your lifetime?

For years, the mantra from professionals in the aging industry has been for all of us to practice strengthening our resilience muscle.

When I think about the myriad traumas of my mentally tough old friends, and how they endured war crimes, experienced multiple deaths of loved ones including children, and faced family estrangement, poverty, and natural disasters, it seems that no matter what bad happens, many of them are naturally resilient. They forgive quickly. They don’t sweat the small stuff. They stop and smell the roses. And they regularly express gratitude.

The resiliency model honors the power of the potential to bounce back from hardship. Until now, I thought resilience was all I needed to get through the rough patches of life. Today, I know that resilience must reside side by side with another essential life skill - critical thinking.

Should I age in place or move out of my house? Is this a wise financial investment at this stage in my life? Should I go through with this medical procedure?  Figuring out the answers to complex questions about old age goes far beyond the basics of who, what, when, where, and how. Making decisions in a world filled with uncertainty becomes even more difficult where there can be multiple ways of dealing with the same situation.

If ever there was evidence of the importance of making smarter choices, it is now, as we look at our future head on. Forging into old age requires evidence over emotion, clarity of personal values, and logical reasoning. Even in extremely stressful situations we can learn to remain calm and rely on our ability to think rationally. Developing critical-thinking skills now is time well spent.

Many of our readers currently provide care for others including parents, spouse/partner, ex-lovers, friends, and family. What advice would you share with our readers about planning for their own care and support as they age?

Everything that can happen to the people we are caring for can happen to us. In other words, the responsibilities of providing for someone else can change on a dime. Sometimes suddenly, sometimes slowly, we transition from caregiver to care-receiver. Family caregivers also tend to ignore the fact that one day their role as family caregiver will end.

My number one concern for family caregivers is this – how prepared are you for your own long-term care? What provisions have you made for yourself? Are you dipping into your own pocket to pay for someone else’s care and jeopardizing your own financial well-being? No one can afford to have the attitude that their long-term needs are less important than the person they currently care for.

So, here’s the plan. 1. Get your money house in order. How will you pay for your own quality of life and care as you age? 2. Start researching where you want to live and who will care for you when your caregiver role ends. 3. Put everything in writing. Get your legal affairs in order today. 

Where can our readers learn more about your work?

It’s easy to get more information about my work and my books. Visit my website – www.elderindustry.com -- and there you will find invitations to my upcoming events, articles, interviews, videos, and recommended resources. You will also find links on downloading forms and checklists from both of my books.

© 2011-2018 Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint these articles, or post them online, please e-mail us.

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