I have been talking to friends who have had the honour of caregiving for a loved one. We have brainstormed things we think would have made our journey easier and came up with ten questions to think about.
Even my mom at 92 would say “I still feel the same inside… until I look in the mirror or try to move!” We would laugh about this and yet now I totally understand.
So it doesn’t surprise me so many people put off these types of discussions because we all think we still have time……As we age we know that a fall, a stroke or serious accident can change our life in a moment. Don’t wait. Do it now! Be prepared if you want to save yourself, your partner or those who will want to care for you heartache and angst.
I will share a few each day in subsequent blogs. I hope it will start you thinking and doing some early planning.
- Appoint a ‘truth teller’ who will honestly advise you about your present condition; your truth teller helps you see what you can’t or won’t acknowledge. It’s important that this person will note your physical, emotional and intellectual changes. Make sure you have clearly articulated that you want your truth teller to have difficult, honest conversations with you. Your partner or someone your age is not a good choice. I think we all know stories of one spouse or good friend ‘covering up’ for another and when a crisis occurs everyone is shocked at how fragile one partner is and how much the other one was covering……. From the age of about 60 my dad and mom began to say to my brother and I that we were to tell them when we thought they were no longer able to care for themselves in their home or drive. They would often tell us this. We both thought it was rather early and yet when the time came it was a relief to know we had their permission, even when they seemed surprised by our comments or even angry. We were reassured it was what they wanted.
2. Consciously build community. Willingly participate in groups; be social; plan opportunities to talk to others; get yourself out most days even if it is just for coffee or to people watch. Social isolation is a huge factor in mental decline while aging. Know why you get up every morning – what is your daily purpose? human interaction is as necessary as food, water and exercise. Plan something every day. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Don’t make others responsible for your entertainment. Often this falls on your caregivers and they feel it is yet another responsibility. My mom would often say she was so bored or wished she could drive and I always felt guilty and thought I should think of something to help her or go out and drive her somewhere. This was a case of her not wanting to spend money on a taxi or take a bus. I’m already talking to myself saying that when I no longer feel safe driving or the kids tell me to give up my car I will do my best to remain self-reliant. And if I have reached a dementia-stage they have my permission to ignore my comments and not feel guilty. They will remember I’m “just not myself.“