Do you have a hobby? Hobbies can give meaning and purpose to your life in retirement. As Robert Putnam points out in his book, Bowling Alone, it’s easy to discount the importance of hobbies and social engagements. Putnam details the widespread decline in civic engagement, from PTA memberships to neighborhood potlucks and bowling leagues. Over a couple of generations, Americans have misplaced the concept of free time.


Lily is a beautiful, active and full of personality toddler who happens to have Down syndrome. Lily’s parents and I have been friends for years and I have the continuing pleasure of watching Lily and her siblings grow up. While Lily is becoming a physical therapy rock star and hitting all her milestones in a timely fashion, her parents have started planning for the future.



The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation, engaged in especially for relaxation.” Hobbies include anything from playing a musical instrument to gardening, bird watching or sewing. A hobby is a way of focusing on something you enjoy just for the sake of that enjoyment. It may also be a way to clear your mental palette. You could be stressed out by a situation at work or the challenges of raising children and need an escape.



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Caregiver committee members would be responsible for obtaining necessary medical services and treatment – not only making appointments but providing transportation for the care receiver to get to doctor’s office or other medical appointments. They may take the care receiver shopping for groceries, clothing, prescriptions and any other goods and services the care receiver may require. People on a caregiver committee would make sure the care receiver’s bills are paid. They would be sure medical, dental or other health insurance remains in force, as well as other insurance that may be appropriate. Caregivers may sometimes need to obtain and supervise the use of assistive devices, including everything from wheelchairs to eyeglasses. They may also need to supervise physical or other therapies.

If the care receiver is admitted to a nursing home, frequent visits are especially necessary. Visiting caregivers should watch for signs of abuse, such as bruises. It is well to monitor how often the care receiver is bathed, how often her teeth are brushed and her hair and nails cared for and whether she is fed adequately. Rather than risk angering nursing home attendants, it may be necessary for the outside caregiver to quietly take on chores such as daily tooth brushing and hair and nail care. It is usually best if the caregiver collects the care receiver’s laundry and takes it to his or her home to be laundered.

Be sure your caregiver committee agreement spells out the source of funds to pay your committee members and the amount to be paid. It is also best to have a formal policy set forth in case there is theft or loss of property. Include in your caregiver agreement a plan for reimbursing caregivers for any expenses they may incur for the care receiver’s benefit. Be sure the agreement makes it clear the members of your caregiver committee are independent contractors and not employees. This relieves the care receiver of any obligation to pay Social Security or any other kinds of benefits or to be responsible for withholding any federal, state or local taxes.

Strokes and accidents can change your life in a moment. It is better to plan before you need help than to wait too long and wind up with no one to look out for you if you become helpless.

A friend and I were leaving a church meeting one Wednesday night when she said, “I have an awful headache. It’s strange. I don’t usually have headaches.” I said I was sorry and hoped she would feel better. We said goodbye in the parking lot and both of us drove home alone. The next day, I learned that later that night she suffered a brain hemorrhage. She does not remember the three months she spent in the hospital and now, no longer able to live alone, she has moved to the assisted living unit of a retirement community. One of her four children took over her checkbook, pays her bills and makes all the business decisions. The children worked together to close her apartment, sell her car and make decisions about what to do with now-unneeded possessions. They made all the arrangements for moving her to the new place.

I wondered: What if that had been me? I not only have no children; I have no family. My only living relative is an elderly cousin who lives in a distant state and no longer travels. Who would have legal authority to make decisions and care for me, much less be willing to do all of that work for someone to whom they had no legal or blood ties?

My circumstance is not unusual. As both the marriage and birth rates decline in the United States, an increasing number of people are alone. Yet, like all human beings, we lonely ones will someday need the kind of care we see our friends giving their aging parents.


What can we do now to provide care for ourselves if we are overcome by physical and perhaps mental incapacity at the end of life?

One answer is a caregiver agreement, sometimes called a caregiver committee. The purpose of a caregiver committee is to provide for the person who has no family the kind of services family members usually assume. Generally the committee is made up of two or three carefully selected friends. They sign a legally binding agreement to form a committee to whom you, by executing a legal document, will give the right and responsibility to care for you if you become physically and/or mentally unable to care for yourself. It will spell out what things they need to do and how much you will pay them for doing them.

In order to help you, it will be necessary for you to give the members of your caregiver committee a power of attorney. It can- not be emphasized too strongly that you should ask only persons of the utmost honesty and integrity to serve on such a committee. A power of attorney is a potent document. Using it, someone can sell your house or your car or empty your bank account without your knowledge or consent.


Martha Evans Sparks is a Staff Writer for Living Well 60+ Magazine

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