Along with retirement plans that place a lot of focus on finances, we should consider how we will live out our senior years. Back in my late twenties, when I first started my 401K plan, my thoughts drifted to having money to travel and to continue to make purchases as if I was still employed. The closer I get to retirement, the more naïve my 20-something ideal of touring castles in Germany after retirement appears. Instead, I’m worrying about health care expenses for my aging mind and body. A growing concern, as I watched a neighboring couple 30 years my senior slip deeper into their twilight years, is that I might be taken from home and placed somewhere that does not please me. Now, while my faculties are still alive, I need to do some planning and get it in writing.
Preparing For Memory Loss
Apparently, not remembering where you put your keys is not solid proof of a slip into memory loss. Still, the first time I couldn’t find something, it did make me wonder if this was the beginning of a far worse issue – Alzheimer’s. Fortunately, I’ve always found the “lost” items, and most of the time, I recall leaving them in the location where they were found. And I must note, sometimes it was dog or my husband who relocated the item, thinking that they were doing the right thing. (Yes, my dog has superior cognitive capabilities. As proof, the dog took my partially completed word puzzle from the Sunday paper and tore it up. What better way to say, “Get off your butt.”)
If the memory loss becomes more serious, I plan on taking pictures, lots of pictures, and labeling them, “our house at my favorite time of year,” “Aunt Bertha and me mooning Uncle Charlie,” “hubby and me gardening.” I want to be able to associate faces with my life. More than fearing a complete Alzheimer take-over, I fear the moment my loved ones realize that I no longer recognize them. Now, if that’s not a good reason to donate to Alzheimer research, I don’t know what is.
Choose a Nursing Home
I’ve visited friends in nursing homes that were dark, carpetless, and so lacking in appeal, that I couldn’t wait to leave. It saddens me tremendously that they had to live there; I presume it was a financial decision. On the other hand, another person I visited in a nursing home was in a situation that made me think of a resort. They had access to the pool and workout rooms, same places where therapy was performed. The rooms and hallways were carpeted. Windows looked out onto a tree and flower landscape. Wide sidewalks for wheelchairs curved through trees and around the building, with lots of places to stop under umbrella-covered tables and chairs. Your own bath, meals served to your bedside, and staff that my friend said were friendly and caring, and no doubt, the best money could buy.
Realizing that we would not be able to afford 24 hour live-in help so I could stay at home, my desire would be to pick out the place I want to be ushered into if that is determined by my family to be best for my care. However, what I pick now during my coherent years might not be managed the same at the time my family is ready to move me in. Perhaps a Living Will can be used to convey my desires for elder care.
Who isn’t brought to the verge of tears at the thought of the death of a loved one or the impact their own death will be on loved ones? You need to sit down with a spouse and decide which friend or relative gets possessions at time of death and who will care for the children. These types of things can be covered in a will.
Still more heart wrenching is the need to decide what will be done for you in the event of catastrophic injury or illness. If I suffer a brain injury that’s left me in a vegetative state, do I want to be kept alive by artificial means? The older I get the more likely I am to say, “no.” And if I am at death’s door, do I want to die at a medical facility or, if given the option, at home? These wishes need to be shared with family. Preparing a Living Will could be the way to go.
Being the thorough person that I am, I will take the Living Will concept one step further to the Five Wishes advanced directive (click here for more information) so I can clearly outline my care and desires for elder years, like where I want my slippers placed at a time when I will be unable to convey the same. Little things mean a lot.