Life as a Contingency Plan – Scary! (and exhausting!)

The words Make Plan playfully spelled out on a table

I considered writing about Halloween given that tonight the ghosts & goblins will knock on our doors looking for the best in sweets and treats. But we really don’t celebrate this holiday at our house – so many strangers, persistently knocking on the door, simply upsets my husband too much (Alzheimer’s). So, we turn off the lights and watch TV in the bedroom whenever Halloween rolls around. I’m confident my neighbors’ generosity makes up for my elusiveness.

What is scary in my life is realizing that I live in a contingency plan. Maybe you do too? A contingency plan is like a “plan B” – the set of decisions you’ll use if something in your usual life-plan goes awry. You get “ready” just in case you have to make a sudden diversion!

You have a contingency plan if there’s an emergency kit in your car – maybe with jump-start cables, a warning flare, a flashlight and (if you live in Minnesota, like I do) some warm clothes, a blanket and some non-perishable foods, should you get stuck out on the road in winter. You don’t expect the worst, but you plan for it, just in case!

Living with someone who has Alzheimer’s you ALWAYS have to have a contingency plan. This actually becomes a way of life – you live in an ever-changing state of “what if…” Things change, and YOU had better have a back-up plan in place. And I suspect that this is likely true for many parents and almost every family caregiver.

Contingency Plans have to be updated!

In keeping with the road-side emergency metaphor, here is how I would describe the challenges in both my life and my contingency planning as time has progressed and my husband’s needs have changed:

  • 10 years ago, my life was like an 8-lane freeway; lots of options, exits, and places to go.
  • 8 years ago, my life was like a 4-lane highway; still many choices, easy access roads.
  • 6 years ago, my life was like a 2-lane roadway; well-traveled but fewer intersections.
  • 4 years ago, my life was like a 1-way, single lane road; best know where you’re headed!
  • 2 years ago, my life became more like being parked in my driveway (especially since COVID) – you’ll need to back up if you intend to go anywhere!

And given all that change, you can appreciate that my contingency planning has had to change as well. Life became narrower, new back-up plans have to be very creative!

Self-care is every conscious action you take that feeds your soul, nourishes your body, nurtures your spirit, or replenishes your relationship with yourself!

Contingency planning is part of my self-care! 

What I mean is, having a back-up plan allows me to worry less about all the “what-ifs” in life and enjoy the actual moment I’m living in!

Just knowing that I’ve planned, that I have some options available to me, allows me to go on with my day without the anxiety of what might happen next. My contingency plan has many components – it’s holistic! It includes a:

  • Personnel plan – people I can call to bail me out of a jam if my day is ruined.
  • Financial plan – money I can tap into in case an un-expected expense turns up.
  • Transportation plan – when I can’t take my husband to daycare, who will?
  • Nutrition plan – what’s in the pantry that can become dinner in a pinch?
  • Healthcare plan – which includes an advance directive (for me, and for hubby) and healthcare proxies who will make decisions if I no longer can!

You get the gist. Sometimes life goes smoothly, and a single plan will do. But, when we’re adults, life is often very complex. Most of us need a well-considered, frequently updated contingency plan in place to help us breathe easier! Yours may not need to be as complicated as mine, especially if your life feels more like the 8-lane freeway than the narrow driveway!

Depending on where life is taking you, what your commitments are, your responsibilities in life, your socio-economic status and your wealth of resources (human and fiscal) contingency planning may be easy for you. When you have fewer options, it can be more challenging.

That’s where a coach can be helpful. A coach will ask questions like, “Where are you headed?” and “How do you plan to get there?” A coach will ask you, “What’s your back-up plan?” and “Who’s in your social network who will help you out?” A coach will listen as you tease apart the decisions you need to make, the plans you might want to build and the contingencies you want to prepare for.

Life has many “what ifs” – let me know if I can help you plan for yours.

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About Paula

I help other caregivers – both professionals and family caregivers – acknowledge their pain and learn to practice the many small skills of self-care that can sustain them through the challenges of wholeheartedly caring for others.

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