It still amazes me how many people I have met over my 20 year career seem genuinely surprised that their parents got old. Especially since the alternative to getting old would be death (not trying to be crass, it’s just the truth). The reality is that barring an untimely death our family members, as well as ourselves, will all eventually be old.
When I speak to people about being pro-actively prepared for this approaching season of life share many will say that they are prepared. When I ask for an example of their “preparedness” 99/100 times their example is their pre-paid funeral, to which my responses is “That’s great for when you’re dead, what do you have planned before that?”
While it is very helpful to have your funeral pre-paid, there are many other pro-active steps that can be taken to help ourselves as well as our family members before that. I refer to this as preparation for “What if”.
Ask the following questions of your elderly loved ones (as well as yourself) and then encourage them to start gathering information on the local programs, facilities and care options available in order to empower them to make pro-active decisions about their care.
- You needed to go for rehab due to a stroke or other major health issue, where would you want to go?
- You were no longer able to safely live in your home where would you want to live?
- You were unable to make decisions about your care would you want the procedures/options of care:
- Resuscitation. Restarts the heart when it has stopped beating.
- Mechanical ventilation. Takes over your breathing if you’re unable to do so.
- Nutritional and hydration assistance. Supplies the body with nutrients and fluids intravenously or via a tube in the stomach.
- Dialysis. Removes waste from your blood and manages fluid levels if your kidneys no longer function.
Write down the answers and then share them with all the family members. When everyone is aware of the persons’ wishes ahead of time it makes it less problematic for the family if ever faced with making those types of difficult decisions. These are just a few examples of care related questions. Having a place to start the conversation can help families share much needed information about individual preferences and help not only to create a practical plan for the future but empower pro-active personal decision making.