No one wants to think about their house burning down. No one wants to think about a fire enveloping their child's school. Yet, despite these uncomfortable thoughts, we prepare for the possibility of this crisis. In fact, our governments have regulated these potential hazards by mandating schools, public buildings and homes to have working fire alarms.

Schools have fire alarms scattered throughout their campuses and initiate practice drills to ensure that the children and staff know where to go and what to do when the alarm sounds.Why do they do this? Because people panic less when there have been practice runs. When we participate in regular fire drills, the escape routes, options and objectives for safety are clear, and our bodies move to the safe zone with less panic and little thought.

So why don't we apply this same approach to planning for aging? Why don't we take care of our aging loved ones the same way we take care of our children?

It helps to look at aging as a potential fire; the chance of a major disaster is low, but you can still evaluate all of the potential risk areas and place alarms to warn you of impending disaster.

Follow this Simple Rule A-P-P

  • Anticipate a fire: Analyze potential emergency scenarios that might occur as a result of your family member's aging—hospitalization, the need for home support, cognitive deficits, acute/chronic/terminal disease, etc.—and come up with a game plan for how you would respond to each one. Continue to check your aging emergency response methods and expectations every six months to make sure they still work for you.
  • Practice family fire drills: Periodically set off an "aging emergency alarm," then explore each age-related scenario and the safest exit path. What kind of support, care and assistance would you want in each situation? Make the practice drills a family event so that no one is left behind scared, angry and resentful in the event of an actual aging emergency.
  • Prepare a family safety zone: Now that you understand what it is you want, confirm your family safety zone by facilitating financial planning and completing the legal documents that will form the foundation of your safety zone. Prevent confusion, family discord and poor support by making your choices known.

Don't let age related changes take you and your family by surprise. Anticipate. Practice. Prepare.

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