It still amazes me how many people I have met over my 25+ year career that seemed genuinely surprised that their parent had gotten 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.
About the Author:
Sue Salach has worked in the geriatric healthcare field for over 30 years and has a Master’s Degree in Gerontology (the study of aging). Sue employs her comprehensive experience and enthusiasm to assist corporations in creating innovative programs to reach out to employee caregivers in the workplace. She is a National Speaker and the author of two books, Along Comes Grandpa, a caregiving resource guide and If I Walked In Her Shoes a caregiving novel. Follow me @SueSalach on Twitter.
I am involved in the senior care industry and have read your blog located at theworkingcaregiver.org.
I have constantly been asked to explain the difference between nursing homes and assisted living.
The graphic and information located here:
offers a great visual explanation (better than any others I have found).
I thought you might want to check it out and share it with your readers and contacts.
Have a nice day.
Thanks for the information Linda! Appreciate you sharing this resource.
On a beach one day years ago, watching my 68-year old mother wading about happily in the surf, I struck up a conversation with a woman who looked to be about 30. “That’s my Mom,” I told her proudly, as my mother jumped sideways, deftly avoiding an oversize wave. “Aaaawwww,” said my new friend, as though speaking of a bird bravely managing to get about despite a broken wing. “I love to see old people having fun.” I was terribly troubled by the designation “old,” and I said to myself, “That’s NOT an old person. That’s my Mom.” Even as my mother grew older still I believed in her youth, and not for 21 more years, when she was truly infirm, did I accept that she was an “old lady.” It seems — and Lori’s comment here supports this belief — that as long as they remain independent and healthy your own parents are never the same kind of old as someone else’s.
Wow, what a story. I think maybe we all feel a little like that and can’t see them as old, until they are frail and / or ill. Thank you so much for sharing your story.
Good article For me old was always 10 years older than my folks. That way, nothing would change…I guess you call that denial. I learned the hard way you can control aging with ignorance. The day we got the call my Dad had a brain tumor pretty much switched everything up in a nano second.
Thanks Lori – I talk to my mom about this subject a lot – she says she still feels 26, though she’s actually 73. I know what she is experiencing – we look in the mirror and say “whose that?” I never knew that about your Dad, it sure does change things – in a split second.
Thank you JoAnn – crucial indeed! Thanks for your comment.
Having worked in all levels of adult care (independent living through skilled nursing) I agree people need to be asking the questions you listed. In fact, adults of all ages should have these conversations. You never know when the information will prove helpful.