Unfortunately, aging isn’t something as simple as just letting it happen; there are lots of active aging care planning necessary to ensure an elderly person’s safety, security, and health as their age and needs progress. Although my parents are only in their mid-fifties, it’s important to begin to talk about some of these things. This way, my sibling and I are ready to help when they need it while following their wishes at the same time.
- Maintain health and fitness throughout life, not just when there’s a problem. This is one of the strongest messages from the Fit After Fifty movement for a reason! Physical fitness and care throughout life will strongly impact how you age.
- Plan ahead financially, and get everyone on the same page. Just like with fitness, not making a decision is making a decision. Plan before your potential future decisions, with a healthy financial plan, power of attorney selection, etc. Aging parents should discuss the source of all income and location of their financial documents and accounts with any decision-making individuals. This way, if they are unable to act for themselves, the stand-in decision-maker can access and manage the financials without scrambling to find them. Don’t forget to plan financially for care providers.
- Talk about depression. This illness is a widespread, and largely under-discussed struggle for many elderly people. Talk about it with your parents before it develops, so that warning signs can be noticed and responded to, if depression starts to affect them.
- Discuss care and wishes for end-of-life. As morbid and difficult as it may be, children should know their parents’ wishes for their care at the end of their lives. Do they want to be resuscitated? Do they prefer burial or cremation?
- Remember the lessons and the gifts. We all experience struggles and even tragedy, but life is about much more than our pain. We also learn so many lessons and also receive some significant emotional ‘gifts’ throughout our lives. Ask your aging parents to share some of those positive memories – it’s part of their legacy!
These are just some of the very important things we should all be talking with our parents about as they age. Don’t put it off! Start talking about them soon, long before they begin to experience some of the more extreme difficulties with aging, such as dementia and other mental barriers to these kinds of complex conversations. This kind of talking early on will also facilitate good communication throughout the aging process.
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