I visit my elderly parents and am left with lingering thoughts about how to age gracefully and is such a thing even possible? If so, what are the elements of it? How do you set yourself up for aging well?
Frequently after visiting my parents I am left with an emotional hangover and ruminations of how I can avoid the state they are now in. They used to be quite social and vibrant without any indication their life would take this turn. Their house is a mess inside and out. Mom has moderate dementia and mobility issues and refuses physical therapy so is getting weaker by the day. They refuse a regular cleaning service, refuse in-home care assistance, never follow up on meal services offered at the local senior center, they are both losing weight and do not seem to bathe regularly. Of the two of them, mom has the most health issues and dad seems to be going down with her ship. I talk to them about activities at the senior center, walking outside, or any self-care activity and they just look at me with blank stares. They just watch television and sit on the sofa all day. Ugh - is this the destiny for all of us?
I do believe anyone can get overwhelmed and just making it through the day with basic needs met can be deemed a success.
How you handle the overwhelm I think is also key. Whether you stay in that mode, or look up to seek relief and having ability to switch to another mode I think is also key. I think it must be mixed in with your own personal "baseline" or temperament. I really like the comments about still being who you are as you get older, perhaps just more so. I think that is very revealing about my parents situation, and at the same time, makes me feel a bit relieved about my own personal path.
NYDiL, what a shocking plan! 😂
Very classy actually! I like.
There was a previous Australian Prime Minister that took some strong pain relief (for a shoulder injury) then swam out to sea.. just went out for a swim in his favorite but known dangerously wild surf beach. Never seen again.
You are not demanding that one of your progeny forsake their own lives to prop you up.
You go to rehab and the SNF/NH when your medical conditions have required it.
You are active and involved with living life.
We hit potholes and bumps in life, no matter our age, it is how we deal with them that makes the difference.
We decided to take out LTC insurance for my husband when he was around 60, figuring that we could afford it for one person but not both of us, and that our assets would have to cover me if I eventually need LTC. Right now we're using the insurance for him to have home health aides several days a week, but if he needed to go into a facility I think he'd be covered for about 3 years without us having to tap into our assets. We also downsized and moved 5 years ago into a condo, in another city closer to several of our daughters. There's a lot more planning I'd like to do, but we do have our wills, POA, etc. in order for now but will revisit if/when situations change.
This is a great question and I'm enjoying reading the responses.
As to aging gracefully, keeping engaged mentally and physically are key. Rituals are important and, sadly, many people lack those. Finding joy and contentment in simple things. Looking forward to big things such as travel or a vacation. And having enough money doesn't hurt one bit!
My brother and I have watched all of this unfold and both of us have made different decisions in our lives on how NOT to be. Of course we have our own faults and like I said earlier, some things we won't be able to prevent, but we can do our best to try to do better!
For your father, he may not know WHAT to do. And he may be going down the same road as your mother; has he been evaluated for cognizance issues himself?
I watched my own mother struggle with dementia for 6+ years and wouldn't wish that condition on my worst enemy. I think once dementia sets in, it's easy for us daughters to advise our parents about what they 'should' be doing, but another thing for them to WANT to, or be ABLE to, take our suggestions. Their lives feel like total chaos, I'm sure, and they're floundering around trying to figure out how to even function. That's why I had my mother in Memory Care, b/c as her dementia progressed, I could see that she was unable to make even the SMALLEST decision about the slightest little thing. That's what happens when dementia sets in: everything becomes overwhelming so nothing gets accomplished.
While I highly doubt this is 'the destiny for all of us', I certainly pray daily it isn't.
What we can do now is make arrangements for our senior care and management later on down the road and hope for the best.
I will say that we are lucky in our health (so far, but knowing EVENTUALLY things will come) and being healthy and active and independent and mentally OK (or no worse than we ever were) makes for a happier life.
I think we don't require a lot of our children. They range from 52 to 60. They have their own lives. We enjoy the places our lives join and other than that we keep busy with our own hobbies. My guy loves archery, walks. I like walking. We both foster dogs, baby sit for dogs. I garden, he putters.
I would say we are who we always were.
As with many elders we wish for the sudden bolt of lightening out of the blue and we are GONE. That's magical thinking but would benefit both us and our kids.
So answer is, I don't know. I think we are pretty much who we are. I think perhaps some of our more frustrating traits get magnified with age, exacerbated if you will.
I believe that staying active, even when it becomes a huge challenge, caring about others and accepting outside help, is key to not going down this road.
I have a 91 year old friend that makes a point, no matter how she feels, to get outside daily. She keeps a calendar and goes out whenever she is invited.
When I take her out shopping and for lunch, it is an all day affair. I am tired when I drop her off. I am also lifted up, because she sees everyone and everything with love and appreciation. Our days are always filled with laughter and fun.
I strive to be like her.
She has a hard time finding words, on occasion, and she acknowledges that her memory has started slipping. She, also, asks for help when she needs it. Nothing big, so far, and she is willing to be wherever she needs to be. She tells me she can't do what she use to but, she does what she loves, she complements every person she interacts with, she tries to be a bright spot in others lives and she is. That is what I see as growing old with grace.