By Susan Yubas, Director of Business Development at The Bristal Assisted Living, Certified Senior Advisor, Founder of FYI Senior Living Solutions, Inc.
Most of us do not get around to having that all important conversation with loved ones, and if we do, it is at the worst possible time and under the most stressful conditions.
An acquaintance of mine in her early forties was recently hospitalized following an automobile accident in which there was no other car involved. An otherwise healthy, active woman who was not texting or talking on her cell phone while driving, her husband and I waited to hear what could have been the cause. Did she have a stroke, a seizure, a heart attack?
As we sat together, he asked “What if she doesn’t pull through? Or has physical or cognitive issues? What if she can’t go back to work? Can we afford to live on one income, especially if she needs help? We never talked about this. We never talked about the “what if’s.” I don’t know what she would want me to do or what would be best!”
In my practice, I primarily work with older adults and their families as they prepare for and deal with the life transitions that happen with aging. But, the reality is that planning is not age related. Denial is just so convenient. We have all the time in the world to “get to it” and we’re young and healthy. We may get old, but will never be “elderly.” If we are, there will always be someone around who knows what our wishes are. They will have our best interests in mind. That person will also be able and willing to implement and execute whatever needs to be done and, of course, there will be enough money to pay for it all.
Or, we made a plan a long time ago and haven’t updated it due to “benign neglect.“ Since then, we’ve moved to another state with different regulations. We’re no longer friendly with the person we named as Executor in our Will. Documents may not be titled properly so that our wishes can be granted. Then, a crisis happens, and you receive that call about a parent who has had a fall, a stroke, or an accident, and life will not be the same.
Several months ago, I met with a couple in their early 70’s at the request of their son who lived out of town. He couldn’t get his parents to talk to him about their wishes and plans for the future, which they insisted, were all taken care of. In the course of our conversation, I learned that they had, in fact, made plans for retirement long ago. Since then, their circumstances had changed significantly, but they had made no changes in their initial plan. They were in good health and enjoyed an active, independent life.
Shortly after our initial meeting, the husband started to have problems with his eyesight. The wife slipped on the stairs, fractured her hip and only wanted to recover at home. Neither of them could continue to run the business they had built. Previously capable parents were suddenly not able to think clearly due to the stress of the situation. The children were angry at their parents for not thinking about how they would take care of each other or for what would happen to their business if they could no longer work. They argued over what would be the best for their parents and who would be the child responsible for coordinating their care and transition to what would become their “new normal.”
Life does not always go as smoothly as we would hope. However, when we take the time to plan in an organized and thoughtful manner, we can make difficult situations a little less difficult and hopefully avoid a crisis situation from occurring.
For more information, visit www.elderlawnewyork.com.