Getting old is a reality of this life. The problem is, are you ready for that time to come? Many would say that this is not the role of a pastor, but I have found myself, on more than one occasion, having to guide people through the difficult decisions that aging brings. Things become complicated when families are unwilling to accept their responsibility, or the person might prefer not to involve family, as they should. The point is that there must be planning or things will get completely out of hand, quickly.
The first question that needs to be answered is, who is your power of attorney? This is actually a two-fold question of who is your medical power of attorney? And, who is the power of attorney over your business affairs? One would think that this might be the same person, but not always. Also, a person may have taken care of one, but not the other. The medical power of attorney allows a designated person to make medical decisions for another person, in the event of incapacitation. A power of attorney over business affairs deals with another person’s money, possessions, bills, etc. The decision of who this person will be must be carefully thought out, and made legal.
What if you get to the point that you cannot drive and cannot live by yourself anymore? What is your plan? It might be easier if there is family close by who are willing to accept their responsibility as family members. If family is not close by, what will you do? The loss of independence is a difficult thing for anyone to give up. Some go to live with other family, while others hire a 24/7 caregiver. These are possibilities, but not for everyone. Some find themselves at this crossroad with seemingly no one to turn to except their church. Every person needs someone that they can receive counsel from when life changes cause a person to have to drastically change their lifestyle.
Where are your most important papers, such as, where is your will? It could be that your house is on fire, and you need to find these papers. Or, it could be that you have just suffered a stroke, and someone else is tasked with finding those papers. Important papers that will affect another person’s ability to properly care for or carry out your wishes should be readily accessible. It’s like deciding on Do Not Resuscitate orders after a person dies; it doesn’t work that way. You have got to trust someone enough to have access to your most important papers and affairs.
I learned an interesting thing from a case manager at a local rehab facility recently. Though we see their job as getting us stronger and able to function after an injury or illness, they also realize that a person may have reached their maximum potential. Maximum potential is a point when you can be released from a rehab facility, but it may not be the point when you can walk again, or take care of yourself. Whatever you just suffered may have taken you down so far that the maximum potential will be far less than before the event.
Are you capable of keeping your medications straight? Under dosing can be as dangerous as overdosing. Drawing up insulin in a tuberculin syringe can be difficult for a person with good eyes and no shakes. Getting messed up on your medications can cause much greater problems than you had previously.
The crux of this matter is planning. None of us want to lose any of our freedoms, but life throws us curves that we do not expect or that are hard to recover from. Families need to take care of family members. If there is no family, or family is unwilling, then it becomes the responsibility of others. The more you do to take care of this in advance, the better it will be for you and others later.