My mother was ill for several weeks and hospitalized. The pulmonologist said she would require rehab before coming home. This meant a rehab facility. AKA nusing home.
We told mom. She looked directly at me and said “I wouldn’t do this to you.” There were no words to be said at that moment. All these years, my eyes still well up and a sinking feeling grows in the put of my stomach thinking about that moment.
The days and nights she spent in rehab were some of the worse either of us spent up to that moment in time. I had lived for years with the belief she would never leave home and the disbelief life would never change. In reality, aging is like any other stage of life; it is a series of changes concluding with death in the same way life begins with birth and then a series of changes occur.
I advocate with all clients to prepare and plan. Once a plan is in place, have not one, but two or three alternatives. Underlying the plans is simplicity and transparency.
This includes rightsizing — possessions, finances, passwords, clothing, and more. It also includes rightsizing plans.
January is the time it is customary to make New Year’s resolutions. This December when the family comes together, you have an opportunity to create your family resolution early. This year’s resolution is to plan and have a conversation about aging.
It applies to everyone in the family – not just grandpa or grandma. The college family members soon have to think about life after college. Single family members need to make decisions – remain single or consider a family so that everyone will stop asking! Family members who will retire in the next year are planning what to do with their time.
Elders need to plan as well. If not, others will make decisions when elders are unable to speak for themselves. Some plans and decisions are easier than others. For instance, at 90, is an inheritance as important as it was at 60? Do 70-year old children have the same needs as 30-year olds? Do elders need access to greater of healthcare providers? Is it important for adult children to know an elders wishes concerning hospice?
Other issues are emotionally difficult at this moment in time because they require the elder to make decisions requiring giving up independence, a sense of who they are, and perhaps accepting the realization of their own mortality. Is it time to downsize? Am I ready to move into a senior community? Is it not safe to live alone any longer? Is my health failing?
Thinking through these questions independently or with family members, developing a plan of action, and carrying out the plan is the best way to start the New Year. It is an act of empowerment for the elder and family.
Engaging a third party to help with this conversation can often encourage honest dialogue. Our transition team often will mediate conversations, assist with planning, or carry-out plans for rightsizing, moving, or transitioning to senior living.