A conversation usually begins with having something to say to a person or people who we believe should be interested. Some conversations are easier than others, and most feature subjects that we hope will not cause any pain or friction. They are comfortable conversations about safe and interesting topics. This is why beginning a conversation about the future and what might happen to us is many times avoided at all costs!
Having spoken to hundreds of people age 70+ over the past 20 years, we have never had one person tell us that they never thought about what might happen if they couldn’t take a shower or dress themselves, for example. Everyone that is aging and seeing what is happening to loved ones and friends thinks about it, if only for a moment here and there. So, if we all have thought about it, why is having a conversation about what might happen and what our wishes are so hard to do? What makes us decide to leave our future to fate rather than discuss our own aging and what might happen? Our experience suggests that many times it is because subconsciously we think that verbalizing possibilities will somehow make them a reality no matter how unlikely, and we want absolutely nothing to do with that!
Below are some of the unforgettable experiences people have shared with us over the years:
”You know I did think about what might happen to me if my wife died before me a lot as I got older, but men usually die before their wives, so I didn’t take these thoughts all that seriously. My wife and I never had any children. Now, after my wife’s passing, I am living alone and I have to use a walker to get around, I really can’t cook for myself because I can’t stand that long and the arthritis in my hands is bad. We never planned for this time in our lives and while I do have savings, I am going through the money very fast. I have to depend on people from my church and neighbors to help me with shopping and cleaning and I feel awful about that. Each day is uncertain, stressful and hard, and I have no idea how I am going to make it. Even though my wife and I had good jobs all of our lives, I don’t have the money to get the help I need!”
“Every time I thought about what might happen to me when I was old after I divorced, I dismissed it with the idea that my kids would take care of me, after all I had five. This was my unspoken plan that no one knew anything about. I never imagined that I would end up in a wheel chair at age 69 and not be able to do many of the things I need to do for myself. My kids have busy lives and they aren’t around much, they just don’t seem to understand the challenges I face and I still don’t know how to talk to then about it, how to ask then for what I need.”
“My husband and I both came from wealthy families and we ended up taking care of our parents, making sure that they had the care they needed as they aged. You would think that going through these experiences would have given us good reason to plan for what we wanted, but we didn’t do it, In fact we did just the opposite. After our parents were gone and when our only child died, we traveled all over the world and spent money like it was going out of style. We did not talk about things that were uncomfortable and I think each of us was thinking that if we would just die in a plane crash that would be great. Unfortunately this never happened. Now we are facing selling our house and moving into an apartment or assisted living, and our money isn’t going to last as long as we do. It is frightening, but we still don’t talk about it.”
” I have worked in this facility as a nurse since it was built in 2004, and I love assisting the people who live here with living the best life possible. Not all of the staff here feels the way I do, and you can imagine what I see going on. I always try to smooth things out, to make things more bearable for the residents, but some of the time it just isn’t possible. I can’t imagine what it is like to live here. So, I”m sure you can see why I don’t want anything to do with living in a place like this when I am older. I am doing everything I can to plan and involve my children in my aging process and I believe that it makes all of us stronger and more certain about the future. 80% of the people who live here never talked about or did any planning for their aging and that is why they are here. It is very, very sad.”
Who are you thinking will take care of you physically and financially when you can’t do everything for yourself? Your wife, husband, daughter, son, best friend or someone else? Talking about what might happen and what your wishes are will not make your fears become a reality, in fact it will do just the opposite! Discussing the uncomfortable will take the power away from your fears and give you a sense of having more control over your future.
Respect your loved ones and ensure that you will have choices as you age by focusing on having this very important conversation. If you aren’t sure how to go about it or you just can’t bring yourself to do it, contact us and we will assist you with starting your conversation today!