Caring for Loved Ones with Special Needs

Caring for Loved Ones with Special Needs

[caption id="attachment_436" align="alignleft" width="150"]John Dragstrem John Dragstrem[/caption]

My older brother David has cerebral palsy. From a very young age I knew my brother was special – and for a number of reasons. He got stares from people who aren’t used to seeing people with physical issues. He made frequent trips to the hospital. He had a special van pick him up for school. But I think the thing that makes Dave the most special is his outlook on life. I asked him the other day if he needed anything and he told me, “I’ve got all I could ever want”. Wow! I’m not sure I’ve ever said that.

He lived with my parents and then with just my mother for most of his life, until she could no longer care for him. Our parents are both gone now. Today my brother lives independently in a facility designed especially for the physically handicapped. He has a great group of friends and people in the area often see him driving his cart to the movie theater, local restaurants and to church functions. How he got from living with family to living independently is a story in itself.

Plans Are Nothing; Planning Is Everything ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

It was difficult for me to get my parents to make plans for David. We all knew that he would most likely outlast them both. Like many things in life, we tend to put off the planning for the future and focus on the issues facing us today. I remember the inevitable happening and I drove my brother up to my house and quickly converted our home to accommodate his life with us.

We soon found out that our doorways were too narrow for his wheel chair, which made it difficult to get access to the first floor powder room. We didn’t have a shower on the first floor and we couldn’t get him up and down the stairs. Even if we could, the narrow doorways would still hinder us. We came up with a temporary solution by taking David to the local YMCA to shower. It was evident that we needed a better solution for all of us.

Three months into this new normal and we were fortunate to discover Katherine Manor, a facility designed specifically for the physically handicapped. Even better, there was one living space available for purchase and we had the resources to buy it.

Problems Solved. Right? Not so Fast…

There were a couple of times when David lived away from home during his college years, but that all ended when trouble surfaced. My parents were (understandably) protective. But he’s now in his 50s and we needed to get him prepared. My wife, Julia, was amazing. She worked with him to help him master daily care activities including cleaning, cooking and washing his own clothes. She chided me when I did certain things that David was capable of doing himself. This prepared my brother very well for his move.

David has lived at Katherine Manor for 5 years now and has become more and more independent along the way. We still check in on him from time to time. Julia buys his groceries and takes him to most of his doctor and dentist appointments. But even these tasks could be delegated to another trusted caregiver.

There’s no guarantee that we will outlast David, so we need to prepare the next round of caregivers. We are working with my partner Matt Koupal to build a care map that will cover all aspects of my brother’s care. Matt has 20+ years of firsthand experience from building a care plan for his son Luke. You may remember our article from some time ago about Luke’s business the Shredigator. Matt brings his expertise to others who have loved ones with special needs. Check out his article included in this newsletter.

We would love to discuss your financial planning for your family members with special needs. Give us a call:

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