By Beth Lueders
Brush and floss your teeth. Save and invest your money wisely. Eat nutritiously. Stay active. Surround yourself with caring, positive people. The list goes on for sound advice on how to prepare for “successful ageing”, a term credited to Dr. John Wallis Rowe, M.D. and psychology and public health professor Robert Kahn, Ph.D.
In their Successful Ageing book, Rowe and Kahn noted that flourishing as you age includes: 1) Safeguarding your physical health and avoiding illness, disease and disability, 2) Maintaining solid cognitive and physical abilities, and 3) Staying actively engaged with life and relationships.
While everyone from gerontologists to financial planners to medical doctors and elder attorneys debate how to prepare for ageing well, a Forbes “What Is Successful Ageing?” article sums up the process. “Meaningful ageing does not involve ‘winners or losers’ in terms of longevity and health,” the article states, “but rather the need to focus on what is most meaningful to a person, especially in older age.”1
Many Seniors Are Not Ready
For many seniors and those approaching their golden years, focusing on what is most meaningful means planning out preferences for future care needs, finances, legal arrangements and other personal choices and then communicating these decisions clearly to loved ones.
Yet a large percentage of older adults across the globe are not ready for ageing successfully, particularly in the area of their estate planning and power of attorney documents. In the UK, 60% of all adults do not have a written will and 37% of these individuals are age 55 and older.2 According to a Royal London survey, 36% of Irish people over age 55 do not have a written will and some seven out of 10 adults overall in Ireland do not have a legal will in place.3
In Canada, 58% of seniors, age 55-plus have a written will.4 The Netherlands employs a regulated database of legal wills through the Dutch Register of Wills, but still a number of citizens have no notarized will.5 Australians fare better on drawing up a will—79% of seniors have a written will compared to 48% of the rest of the population with a legal will.6 The world’s oldest country, Japan, is home to almost 27% of the population age 65 and older and an untold number of these seniors lack legal will and estate documents.7 Because talking about death is taboo in China, only about 1% of the nation’s more than 220 million seniors have a written will.8
It is not easy to bring up discussions about finances, ill health and eventual death. It may feel a bit awkward to talk through estate plans. However, when the family gets together for the holiday season, it is an ideal time to address potential healthcare needs of an elder loved one or yourself. Casual holiday togetherness time is a natural segue to interacting with the family about current and future care needs.
Being proactive in plan-for-the-future conversations will help prevent loved ones from being caught off-guard when a health, financial or legal issue occurs. Yet, how do you communicate your successful ageing plans without family members dismissing you or taking charge? What if someone feels hurt or left out of the dialogue?
Simple Steps to Communicate Well
Fortunately, a team of home care professionals has already anticipated roadblocks and reservations about the conversation covering health, finance and legal needs of older relatives. The practical RightConversationsSM resource guide offers families tools and pointers for talking through a relative’s options for their personal affairs and extra assistance to live safely at home. The solutions-driven guide developed by home care leader Right at Home helps resolve communication gaps and conflicts between seniors and their family caregivers as they dialogue about how to design a care strategy for ageing successfully.
The following steps from the RightConversations materials are easy to understand and put into practice.
Step 1: Gather the important information.
The RightConversations Information Journal is a practical jumping off point to assist families in collecting the pertinent details about the loved one’s health, doctors, family history, finances, insurance and other key personal facts. The Information Journal includes streamlined forms to keep all the relevant information in one place. For example, there is amble space to fill in names of life, health and auto insurance companies and policy numbers and where to find the older adult’s legal and financial paperwork.
Because the elder’s health may be in flux, it is essential to learn accurate facts about the individual’s current condition and medical care. The following suggestions in the information-gathering stage can help with wise choices moving forward:
- Make a note of what you see occurring. Do you notice your loved one can no longer perform specific tasks?
- Listen to your inner voice. That internal messenger could be telling you something is not quite right with your loved one or their condition is changing.
- Accompany your ageing relative to doctor appointments so you hear information firsthand and can get a true picture of your loved one’s condition.
- Ask about medications. You can obtain information about the loved one’s medications and their adverse effects from a physician, pharmacy, library or the Internet. Problems arise when medications expire, are the wrong dose or the wrong prescription.
Step 2: Organize tasks that need to be delegated to family members or service providers.
The RightConversations Family Action Planner documents the actions each family member will take to better support their loved one and includes an area for contact information of those who may assist in the care of the senior. Listing out these to-dos in the journal helps keep a record for all parties involved. Who will help with lawn work or financial management? Who will assist with meal preparation or cleaning? Who will be the person responsible for emergency care or a possible crisis related to caregiving?
Step 3: Plan in case an unexpected hospitalisation happens.
A fall, the flu, a disease flare-up — any number of illnesses or medical crises can lead to a loved one being admitted to the hospital. Later, as the patient prepares to be discharged, several questions and concern can arise about returning home. Do I need any kind of care after my hospital stay? What medications should I take, and what medication schedule should I follow at home? What activities am I allowed to do or what activities should I avoid? What are my dietary restrictions and nutritional requirements?
As a pioneer in hospital-to-home care transitions for seniors, Right at Home launched RightTransitions® in 2010 as one of the first programs to provide care and support to patients during the transition from the hospital or other care facility stay back home. The RightTransitions at-home care for older adults and adults with disabilities features a full range of options including personal care, health reminders, meal preparation, transportation to appointments and communication with the family.
When it comes to successful ageing, open communication among loved ones is beneficial. Sometimes it can be challenging for family members to have conversations with an ageing relative who may fear losing their health and independence but taking the initiative to talk with honesty and compassion can really strengthen the relationships for the seasons ahead.
Founded in 1995, Right at Home offers in-home companionship and personal care, and assistance to seniors and adults living with a disability who want to continue to live independently or age in their home. Right at Home is your local expert for issues related to caring for your loved ones and is dedicated to keeping you informed about home care. With no admin or subscription fees Right at Home allows you to get more care from your package or budget.
Right at Home is a 'My Aged Care' government approved, home care provider for levels 1 – 4 and offers flexible in-home care services such as nursing care, after hospital care, post-operative care, respite care, dementia and Alzheimer's care. Right at Home also offers assistance with daily living such as grooming, hygiene, transport, shopping, meal prep, domestic services and social support, so your loved one can enjoy a more independent, vibrant life. Our nurses and caregivers are screened, highly trained and insured prior to entering your home so you can trust us with the caregiving while you focus on your loved one.
To find out more, please give us a call on 1300 363 802 or visit our website
1 Forbes. What Is Successful Ageing? Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2018/09/10/what-is-successful-ageing/#29aa0a141dd7.
2 Your Money.com. 60% of People Don’t Have a Will. Retrieved from https://www.yourmoney.com/retirement/60-people-dont-will/ .
3 Irish Mirror. Seven in 10 Irish People Don’t Have a Will. Retrieved from https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/irish-make-a-will-probate-11187907.
4 Angus Reid Institute. What ‘Will’ Happen with Your Assets? Retrieved from http://angusreid.org/will-and-testament/.
5 Association du Réseau Europén des Registres Testamentaries. Finding a Will in The Netherlands. Retrieved from http://www.arert.eu/Finding-a-will-in-the-Netherlands.html?lang=fr.
6 News.com.au. New Research Reveals 52 Percent of Adult Australians Don’t Have a Will. Retrieved from https://www.news.com.au/finance/money/wealth/new-research-reveals-52-per-cent-of-adult-australians-dont-have-a-will/news-story/a93f8904936956b48f7f840195413f9c.
7 World Population Review. Japan Population 2019. Retrieved from http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/japan-population/.
8 USA Today.com. Chinese Don’t Have Wills — And Now It’s a Big Problem. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/01/02/chinese-wills-savings-beijing/95750124/.