As I said last week, it is easier to start the care planning conversation with seniors if you share plans for your own golden years, but that means you have to BE planning. Create the essential documents: medical and financial powers of attorney, insurance policies, wills, funeral plans, and make sure YOUR potential caregivers know how to access them. Review your finances and retirement plans, making proactive decisions that support your economic security in your golden years. These actions are good for you, but they also make your kids’ caregiving easier than your parents have made yours. People will do for their children what they will not do for themselves; they will do even more for their grandchildren. Sharing your plans to make caregiving easier for your kids might start a chain reaction that helps you as well. Unfortunately, adult children can be our own worst enemies in preparing to care.
D’Nile Ain’t Just a River in Egypt
You remember sitting in their laps. You remember how they kissed your booboos, and dried your tears. It’s terrifying to think of a time when your seniors won’t be here for you, or worse, when they’ll still be here, but won’t be able to do advise, comfort, or just share love. Even though you know it’s coming, terror can make you deny the need to plan for that terrible time. People who deny get blindsided by emergencies. I know you fear losing them (or losing your relationship with them,) but you still have to prepare to give excellent care.
Keep your eyes open and keep an open mind as you watch for signs that your seniors need help. Note all changes, but pay particular attention to:
Vision and hearing
Mobility, personal care, housekeeping, and other typical functions
Social activities, interests, mood, and personality
Money management and driving.
Also, don’t ignore other people’s concerns. Even your bossy big sister, nosy brother-in-law, or busybody auntie may have valid concerns. Take the blinders off and consider these comments, carefully. Being annoying doesn’t make someone wrong.
“Age is not a Disease” Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Gray Panthers
Ageism is a bias against older adults that causes discrimination in employment and other opportunities, but ageism is also the an expectation that older adults should be less capable than younger adults. When my 89 year-old aunt decided she would stop teaching line-dancing classes, my cousins and I got worried. We all talked to her and to each other. Aunt Terri said she was uncomfortable teaching because of her hearing loss. My big cousin Ray, my aunt’s right arm, went to the doctor with her. The doctors maximized support for her hearing, but even though her students disagreed, Aunt Terri felt the loss was getting in her way. Now, she just takes three classes a week. She has decided to stop traveling alone, but still works with the senior center administrator to plan all of the trips for the group. Aunt Terri goes somewhere every couple of months, even out of the country.
If we had said, “Oh, she’s just getting old,” or if we had encouraged Aunti Terri to “slow down,” we might not have urged doctors to try to improve her hearing. When seniors, their families, and/or their doctors are ageist and accept disability as the norm, the seniors can start the downward health and emotional spiral that comes from sitting still.
That wouldn’t have happened to Aunt Terri because she’s “all that and a bag of chips,” but less intrepid seniors might just sit down.
In preparing to care, don’t deny, either by refusing to see a problem, refusing to listen when someone else sees a problem, or by succumbing to ageism (expecting them to be less capable.)
Next week Part 3 Pulling Your Team Together – Getting other Family Members on Board