When we are at our most vulnerable, nothing is more important than knowing someone is there for us. And in those times, the little, comforting things ensure our wellbeing: a tasty nutritious meal, a warm bath, a clean and tidy home, a comfortable bed, nice clothes that fit properly, someone to talk to, someone to remind us to take our medication, someone to take us to our appointments, someone to talk with, someone who cares. As we age we need a support system in place to ensure our care. It doesn’t matter if you are world renowned scientist, a famous actor or a mom who focused entirely on caring for her family. If you don’t have a trusted person to help you to the bathroom in the middle of the night you could be putting yourself at risk of a serious fall. Planning for care as we age is our key to maintaining our freedom and independence.
It’s interesting. Planning is something we do for virtually every stage of life. We plan for baby’s arrival for months. We shop, we decorate, we read, we place our child on preschool wait-lists, we consult with friends, we interview pediatricians and so on. That part of life: from infancy to school lasts 4 years. It is planned and funded, executed, captured in photos and shared online.
As childhood arrives we evaluate school needs, investigate tutoring, drive to music lessons, sports, family vacations, vaccinations, summer camps, etc. Everything is planned, funded, executed, captured in photos, shared online.
Next up is graduation, college, weddings, trips and so on. Again, everything is planned, funded, executed, captured in photos and shared online. This is when the kids start doing for themselves…in theory, but costs and society sometimes require parents to remain present, and continue planning, funding, executing, capturing and sharing.
Now, let’s look at it from the other end: we die. Maybe we have a will and a planned and prepaid funeral…maybe we are waiting for our kids to take care of that, either way, we know it’s coming and somewhere in the back of our mind, it is taken care of.
But, back up for a minute. Before we die, we are likely sick or weak. We could be in the hospital, hospice or long term care. Rarely do we go from being a vibrant, healthy, middle aged individual to our death bed with nothing in between.
What generally happens is, the kids move out (finally) and start their own lives and we have a few years where we can live our “Freedom 55” fantasy – although today it’s more likely to be Freedom 65 or 70. We have a few amazing years when we can do what we want to do, see what we want to see and party like it’s 1999. But add a few more years to that and in many cases, our bodies start to wear out and we start slowing down: hip replacements, knees, perhaps diabetes, or a heart condition diagnosis. We win 1 or 2 battles with cancer, or perhaps we receive a neurodegenerative diagnosis, cataracts, arthritis and so on. Whatever the case and whatever our state of health, we are unlikely to die without needing some kind of help.
Remember when we planned for everything in our life and in our kids’ lives? Well, whether we like it or not, we really must to talk about and plan for when we need a little assistance. If we don’t plan and fund this time of our life, we will be forfeiting control of it. By being proactive, we can choose how we want to live. By talking about it with our families, we can ensure that our desires are top of mind and we can avoid being parented by our kids. Why would we stop being adults now? Needing help is nothing to be ashamed of and asking for help is one of the bravest things we can do.
Getting older is not something that happens to us, it is something we do. Take charge.