From the caregiving days when helping my parents, I learned the importance of planning ahead for my advanced years.
Growing older forces change — the kind we don’t want to think about. And that change often impacts our living choices, financial matters, driving, relationships, physical and mental health and end of life.
We have to think about what will happen and if we can remain at home without help? How do you tell your adult children or siblings that you want to move because you no longer feel safe at home or you feel isolated in the suburbs?
What will you do if you can’t drive or you have to tell someone you love that he or she shouldn’t? Making decisions, identifying choices and sharing our wishes are all the issues on the road ahead. And I know many who would rather sweep all those under the rug.
So, why aren’t people talking about the future? For one, it’s difficult and uncomfortable. However, these conversations are necessary. Last week, I attended a conference on end of life issues and the project spearheading the event is called The Conversation Project. It addresses end of life concerns, however, they also promote talking about how one prefers to live in the advanced years.
I brought the topic up in a Facebook Live event via my page, CarolMarak.com, and someone said, “I live in denial about growing old and prefer to be around younger people. So, I don’t think about it very much”
Another individual claims thinking about her aging years is too much to handle because she’s still helping her mother and can’t think about herself right now.
For me, as long as I feel good and have good mobility and can get around, thinking about growing older and my future needs don’t bother me so much. Maybe it’s because I’m in the business of aging and exposed to the topics day in and day out!
Across the U.S., 90 percent of people say talking with their loved ones about end-of-life care is important, but only 27 percent have actually done so.
I encourage folks to take baby steps because that’s how I’ve created my plan. It’s not something you rush. However, it’s significant enough to discuss with family members and close friends if family isn’t around.
Tips for you when starting the plan:
—You don’t need to have the conversation just yet, it’s okay to just think about it.
—Start out by writing a letter to yourself or writing in a journal. Consider writing a letter to a friend or family member.
—Practice having a conversation about how you want to live and die.
—Having a conversation may reveal that you and your spouse or loved ones disagree about future decisions. It’s good to find out early on.
—And lastly, having a conversation isn’t just a one-time thing, it’s the first in a series of talks over time.
Carol Marak is an aging advocate, syndicated columnist and editor at Seniorcare.com. She earned the Fundamentals of Gerontology Certificate from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.