‘Ask The Undertaker’ with Bob Buhrig on the Coach’s Corner podcast Ep.19

Talking about and pre-planning for one’s funeral, burial and death are not easy topics to discuss. But in this episode we talk with Bob Buhrig, owner and operator of Buhrig Funeral Home & Crematory in Mechanicsburg, as he answers questions with grace and compassion, and offers his expert advice and insight to help understand, embrace and plan for these touchy subjects. Learn about the five critical questions your survivors want you to answer before your death, along with insight into cremation, pre-funding and veterans benefits. Click below to listen.

www.nfda.org (National Funeral Directors Association)

www.buhrig.com/5-critical-questions

Buhrig Funeral Home & Crematory
37 East Main Street
Mechanicsburg, PA 17055
Tel: (717) 766-3421

www.buhrig.com

Supporting Adult Day Clients and Caregivers

It is not an easy thing to walk alongside and provide care for a beloved spouse or loved one as he or she suffers the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. As we all know, Alzheimer’s disease is a thief – it steals not only memories, but also a person’s sense of identity and purpose as he or she loses the ability to do the things that have long been part of daily life.

Bob Gates lived this journey first-hand after his wife of more than 60 years, Audrey, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in July 2011.

Bob and Audrey met in 1st Grade and had their first date at the young age of 16. After graduating from high school, the couple married in 1954 and built a life together as best friends and partners. Bob’s career with Bell of PA and Bell Atlantic, which we now know as Verizon, spanned more than 40 years and took the couple to Sunbury, Pottsville, and Altoona before they settled permanently in the Harrisburg area. Audrey was a full-time mother and homemaker, raising their three children and actively helping with grandchildren as well. The couple’s favorite hobby was traveling. They traveled to many different places on the east coast, but returned time and again to Myrtle Beach, SC where they camped right on the water. An outdoorsy family, the Gates enjoyed camping, fishing, hunting, and time spent together around the campfire. The close-knit family also practiced a strong faith, which led them to serve their church and the community out of love for the Lord.

It is no surprise then, that after receiving Audrey’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Bob and family banded together to care for Audrey at home for as long as possible. As Audrey’s needs increased and became overwhelming, Bob found respite and support through the Adult Day program on the campus of Messiah Village where Audrey became a client in January 2017. Bob’s objectives in enrolling Audrey in Adult Day were to provide her with increased socialization, keep her physically active and stimulated, and slow the progression of her mental decline. Additionally, Bob knew that enrolling Audrey in Adult Day would allow him to recharge and renew himself as her primary caregiver and give him time to downsize their home and prepare for the next stage of life – the couple’s move to their apartment in Village Square.

“Adult Day is a godsend,” Bob says. “The team members are the most compassionate, caring, professional people I have ever seen. They are genuine – it is not an act. It takes a special kind of person to do what they do, and they are just that…special.”

The Gates moved into Village Square in November 2017, and Bob continued to take Audrey to Adult Day every day until February 2018, when Audrey was discharged from Adult Day and welcomed to the Manchester neighborhood. Now, Bob visits Audrey daily, often utilizing Kibler Bridge, which connects Village Square to Village Center. In the Manchester neighborhood, Audrey continues to receive top-notch care, and Bob is grateful for the ways that team members show love and compassion to Audrey each day.

Despite the challenges and – yes, the sadness – of Bob and Audrey’s journey, Bob is grateful. “We are highly blessed,” he says. “I have met so many people at Messiah Village that I treasure, and I am blessed to be in a beautiful community surrounded by friendly, helpful, compassionate, Christ-like people.”

Written by: Rachel Pease, Director of Development at Messiah Lifeways
Originally published in “Spolight” A Newsletter for Donors and Volunteers, September 2018

 

Retirement Planning: Beyond Dollars & Cents

“Retirement is a time of great change, and a chance to begin an exciting new phase of your life. But like anything done well, it takes planning. While everyone thinks they are ready to retire, not everyone is truly prepared.” – Retirement Options Coaching

Financial planning for retirement is crucial. It takes center stage in retirement preparedness, as it should. Concerns such as, “have I saved enough, will I be able to cover [my/our] medical bills, or will I have enough to leave to my family?” are tough questions to plan for and to truly answer. To compound things further, despite the average life span in the U.S. continually climbing in the last 50+ years, retirement age has not kept pace. Therefore, an increasing number of people are living well beyond their expectations in retirement – sometimes 20 to 30+ years longer. And because they were not expecting to, they were wholly unprepared. A number of recent studies, including one from GoBakingRates.Com show that 1 in 3 Americans have no money saved for retirement, and the large majority don’t have enough saved. So without question, many of us need to do more (maybe a lot more) to get prepared. Hop to it!

But to narrow the point for this article, let’s be positive and assume you’re not a part of the unprepared mass, and you’ve taken the necessary steps towards financial preparedness. Now it’s on to the next step in retirement planning.

Embracing non-financial retirement plans and expectations

There are many other significant areas in retirement life that also require attention, planning and consideration aside from finances. We know many are financially unprepared, so it’s likely, many including those who are financially prepared, have done little to no planning or even considered asking other questions about their own retirement. ”What will I do to fill that time with purpose, meaning, and productivity? How do I plan to stay healthy, engaged and even flourish in retirement? Can I or must I reinvent myself? Do I need to work? What will that journey look like for possibly 10, 20 or 30+ years in retirement?”

Part of finding this balance and ensuring a positive experience in retirement is changing our attitude toward aging and embracing it as a time of gain, not loss. Messiah Lifeways, Coaching in particular, believes in changing the conversation about aging. In late 2016, we began to offer the Retirement Options Coaching (ROC) program to reinforce this ideal. ROC helps retirees plan for their next phase of life by assessing, focusing, and guiding retirees through a Life Options Profile™ which concentrates on 6 key life arenas:

  1. Career and Work
  2. Health and Wellness
  3. Finance and Insurance
  4. Family and Relationships
  5. Leisure and Social
  6. Personal Development

A Life Options Profile evaluates these six parts of retirement and provides personal, practical, and a relevant self-portrait of one’s lifestyle needs and strengths. It also provides insight and guidance on transitioning from your current lifestyle to a new retirement lifestyle. Suggested reading, powerful questions and client exercises work in conjunction with the Life Options Profile, which enables retirees to examine and plan for a more fulfilling, healthy, and productive lifestyle and can help balance many of the other attributes vital to a successful retirement.

How can you tell if you are prepared? Answer these eight short, seemingly straight-forward questions to help you determine if you are retirement ready.

In retirement, do you have a plan for…

…exercising your mind for continued, personal learning? Yes or No

…changes in income, health and/or lifestyle that may affect your financial security?  Yes or No

…maintaining your sense of purpose and self-worth? Yes or No

…how you will purposefully spend your time with fulfilling activities and interests?  Yes or No

…interaction with others to build and maintain enjoyable relationships? Yes or No

…managing family commitments to aging parents, children and grandchildren? Yes or No

…where you will reside? Yes or No

…making adjustments to ensure a healthy attitude towards life and retirement? Yes or No

Give yourself 1 point for each question you answered ‘yes’ and zero for ‘no.’ Then add up the total. If you scored a 6 or under, you could benefit from taking the Life Options Profile assessments and working with a Certified Retirement Coach to develop a personal retirement plan. To learn more about this valuable program, rates, or to schedule a free 30-minute consultation, contact the Messiah Lifeways Coaching office at 717.591.7225 or email Coach@MessiahLifeways.org.

 

 

Caregiver Absenteeism: a Growing Economic Burden

“There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”

– Former First Lady, Rosalynn Carter

The Family Caregiver Alliance® defines a caregiver as, “an unpaid individual (for example, a spouse, partner, family member, friend, or neighbor) involved in assisting others with activities of daily living and/or medical tasks.” We can also define most caregivers as loving, caring heroes, who give of themselves unconditionally while in many instances sacrificing their own health and wellbeing, relationships and even employment.

According to research from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, in 2015 there were roughly 34.2 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. providing care particularly for someone over the age of 50. And the average age of a caregiver across the board was 49.2, which falls firmly in the primetime of a career and raising teens or even grandkids. Statistics also show them spending on average 24.4 hours a week providing care for a loved one. This research also indicated that 70% of working caregivers suffer work-related difficulties due to their dual roles. For instance, 61% of caregivers experience at least one change in their employment due to caregiving such as cutting back work hours, taking a leave of absence, receiving a warning about performance/attendance, among others. Furthermore, 49% arrive to their place of work late/leave early/take time off, 15% take a leave of absence, 14% reduce their hours/take a demotion, 7% receive a warning about performance/attendance, 5% turn down a promotion, 4% choose early retirement, 3% lose job benefits, and 6% give up working entirely.¹

Add all these stats and scenarios together, and you have a recipe for a residual burden on caregivers resulting in burnout, depression, poor health and a compromised commitment to their employers. This translates into poor work performance, loss of productivity, plus increases in absenteeism, health care subsidies, paid time-off, sick leave, and FMLA claims. Bottom line – caregiver absenteeism costs the U.S. economy an estimated $25.2 billion in lost productivity. ²

Employers must adapt

This problem will continue to trend upward, especially as the number of baby boomers surges and eventually grow older, frailer and more dependent. Employers will need to be more sensitive and proactive on this issue. Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) offers employers a number of suggestions for removing barriers to equal employment such as adopting caregiver-friendly work policies and workplace flexibility, along with providing eldercare support, resources, and referral services to caregiver employees.³ [click here for the full list from FCA]. As Rosalyn Carter summarized, the potential for caregiving can affect us all, so the likelihood of being a caregiver and an employee simultaneously is a strong possibility. Are you prepared as an employer?

Messiah Lifeways Coaching encourages these ideals from FCA to employers, especially in the area of education and support. Messiah Lifeways Coaching will be offering its annual workshop entitled “Caregiver Solutions” on September 26, 2018. This workshop is designed for those seeking options, resources, and support as caregivers, especially for those who may be struggling to balance caring for a loved one and their own busy lives. The workshop is also open for professional development and education and to employers looking to gain a better perspective on the issue. Topics include: assessing and avoiding caregiver burnout, care options, costs, and making a plan. If you or a staff member would like to attend, please call 717.591.7225 or register online at www.MessiahLifeways.org/Events.

¹National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP (2015) Caregiving in the U.S.
²Gallup-Healthways. (2011). Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Survey: Caregiving Costs U.S. Economy $25.2 Billion in Lost Productivity. Based on the average number of work days missed per working caregiver, assuming $200 in lost productivity per day.
³Williams, J. C., Devaux, R., Petrac, P., & Feinberg, L. (2012). Protecting Family Caregivers from Employment Discrimination

Safeguarding Your Identity: Tips for Seniors

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America, with a majority of it occurring online. Today, with technology and social media becoming increasingly advanced, it can be a challenge to stay safe. What can you do to prevent identity theft and fraud? Keep reading for additional information regarding this topic.

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft occurs when someone steals and poses dishonestly as another person by using their name and their personal information without direct permission of that individual for fraudulent purposes. Such examples include: Investment Fraud, Credit Card Fraud, Passport Fraud, Telephone Fraud, Tax Fraud, Mail Theft as well as Social Security Number Misuse. The penalties for identity theft in Pennsylvania can vary depending on the total value of possessions allegedly obtained by using false identification. Plus a fine could range anywhere from $2,000 to $25,000 along with jail time from 5 years up to 10 years, yet the problem persists.

Who Is At Risk?

We are all at risk, but due to the “booming” senior population, especially in states like Pennsylvania, seniors unfortunately make up a large percentage of these victims. They’re targeted for a number of reasons. First, they may be struggling with cognitive impairments such as dementia or memory loss, which can then impair their decision-making. Also, thieves may prey on them because of loneliness and isolation. So when a senior sees “someone in need” or that person is seeking their attention, it can reel them right in. Additionally, many grew up in an era where a hand shake or someone’s word meant a lot and therefore may be more trusting than they should be. Lastly, as technology evolves, thieves have become more hi-tech, so online information is becoming much easier to steal and because many older adults aren’t as tech savvy, they may unknowingly leave themselves open for these types of attacks.

How Can I Prevent Identity Theft?

To help prevent theft and fraud, you should consider a few of these precautionary steps. First, be careful creating usernames, passwords and/or Personal Identification Numbers (PIN). Do not use birth dates, Social Security numbers, your email address, or words, names or phrases that might be easy to guess. Use a combination of numbers, letters and symbols. Second, if you have financial paperwork lying around that contains personal information, shred these documents before disposing them. It seems like such a silly step to take yet, it can make all the difference in the world. Third, safeguard your Social Security number as though your life depends on it because in a way, it does. Do not keep your Social Security number in your wallet, purse or handbag. In fact, don’t even write your SSN on a check, as this can put you at risk. Lastly, refrain from exchanging sensitive information through the mail, over the internet, through the phone or on other social media unless you specifically know the person you are dealing with and you are aware of why they are in need of this information.

Also around tax season, there have been a number of “IRS” scams stating they owe money and if they do not pay immediately you’ll be jailed or fined. This is a scam. The Internal Revenue will not contact you via social media, phone call or email. If they need to reach you, it will be by letter.

What Do I Do If I Suspect Identity Theft is Occurring?

One of the best things to do if you are suspicious is to be vigilant and proactive. The longer you wait, the more damage can be caused and thus the more money you can lose. The next thing you might be wondering is who do I contact? That depends. Based on the type of identity theft that is occurring, there are different organizations that are specifically geared towards eliminating that issue of identity theft and/or fraud. For instance, in order to contact someone about tax fraud, contact the Internal Revenue Service (www.irs.gov/uac/Identity-Protection). On the other hand, if you’re dealing with mail theft, you may want to contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (www.postalinspectors.uspis.gov).

Here are some additional resources to contact if you are in need of further assistance regarding identity theft and/or fraud. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. So if you are having any kind of inkling of this occurring, then please reach out to someone!

  • Investment fraud – Contact the U.S. Securities and Exchange commission at sec.gov.
  • Mail theft – Contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at postalinspectors.uspis.gov
  • Passport fraud – Contact the U.S. Department of State at passports.state.gov
  • Telephone fraud – For cellular phones and long distance service, contact the Federal Communications Commission at fcc.gov/complaints or at 1-88-TELL-FCC or write FCC/Consumer Information Bureau, 445 12th Street, Room 5A863, Washington, D.C. 20554
  • Social Security Number misuse – Contact http://oig.ssa.gov/report or call 1-800-269-0271, fax 1-410-597-0118 or write SSA Fraud Hotline, P.O. Box 17768, Baltimore, MD 21235
  • Tax fraud – Contact the Internal Revenue Service at http://www.irs.gov/uac/Identity-Protection or call at 1-800-908-4490

Written by: Eliese Bjerke, Messiah Lifeways Coaching and Community Engagement Student Intern (Messiah College)

 

Paying for Personal Care in PA: Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Personal Care Homes (PCH) and Assisted Living Residences (ALR) are housing options typically for older adults that provide hands-on care with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, grooming and offer three meals a day, activities and medication monitoring. The average annual cost of a personal care home or assisted living in Pennsylvania is $41,400¹. While some older Pennsylvanians are fortunate enough to pay privately for these services, a much larger percentage simply cannot. Either way, many of those who need these levels of care are often mistaken on how it will get paid for. Many seniors and/or their families think that Medicare or Medicaid (aka Medical Assistance) will pay for some or all of personal care or assisted living. But, regrettably neither offer coverage in Pennsylvania, therefore private out-of-pocket payment tends to be the primary funding source for PA seniors. But, a fair number of states like Florida, North Carolina and Maryland do provide full coverage through their state Medicaid program. For full details on all 50 states, click [here].

For many older Pennsylvanians who begin to decline and struggle to live safely at home, moving to a personal care home can be the perfect solution. However, again due to average monthly costs of $3,450¹, it’s just not an option for many.

Of course this is nothing new, so state funded programs through Home and Community Based Services (HCBS), also known as Waiver Funded Services or Waiver Programs, were created to provide alternatives. They provide support and services that enable individuals to remain in a community setting rather than being admitted to a long-term care facility. Some of these waiver funds particularly aimed at helping seniors include adult day programs, non-medical home care, home modification grants and environmental adaptation services. While these are helpful, they may fall short for someone who cannot live alone safely 24 hours a day, for instance those with a dementia diagnosis. In cases where placement is an absolute must, the other option is nursing home placement; because if financially eligible, Medicaid will pay for them to be in a nursing home. The problem with this is that a number of these people don’t actually need true nursing care. For example, someone with moderate dementia may be in decent physical health, but because of safety or behavioral issues coupled with little income and no assets, nursing placement becomes the only option. Thus – “becoming stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Some good news

There are two direct funding sources that will provide partial or possibly full coverage for PCHs and ALRs in PA. The first is Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and second is the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Not to be confused with Social Security income that most everyone receives after retirement, Supplemental Security Income is strictly a needs-based program determined by one’s income and assets and, of course, physical need. It exists for people age 65+, as well as blind or disabled people of any age, including children.

To meet the SSI income requirements, you must have less than $2,000 in assets (or $3,000 for a couple) and a very limited income. SSI provides a number of benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. It also provides a monthly payment for the PA “Domiciliary Care or “Dom Care” program. As stated on PA Aging website, “Dom Care was created to provide a home-like living arrangement in the community for adults age 18 and older who need assistance with activities of daily living and are unable to live independently. Dom care providers open their homes to individuals who need supervision, support, and encouragement in a family-like setting.

Dom care residents are matched to homes that best meet their special needs, preferences, and interests. Dom care homes are smaller than the traditional personal care home in that home providers care for no more than three dom care residents. Unlike larger personal care homes, dom care homes are the individual providers’ homes. They are inspected annually to ensure they meet health and safety standards. If the home and provider pass this inspection, they become certified.

The local Area Agency on Aging is responsible for the initial certification and ongoing annual inspections of Dom Care homes in their area. They are also responsible for the placement of individuals into certified Dom Care homes.”

Supplemental Security Income in Pennsylvania will also cover monthly Personal Care/Boarding Home (PCBH) costs at $1,189.30 per eligible person or $2082.40 per eligible couple∗. The drawback to this funding option is that personal care homes must be willing to participate and accept these shortfall amounts. Thus, finding a participating facility can be a challenge. To get a list of facilities that accept SSI payments, please contact your local County Area Agency on Aging.

Next, the V.A. Aid and Attendance benefit provides an additional monthly pension to eligible veterans and/or their surviving spouses. Eligibility is based on income and assets, war-time service status and physical/medical need. This additional monthly stipend can be used for community based services, but can also be used to cover costs associated with placement in a personal care home or assisted living setting. To learn more click [here].

Lastly, another alternative in Pa, which falls under the category of community support is the LIFE (Living Independence for the Elderly) program. A person continues to live at home, but LIFE offers heavier partial day services and care to keep them there for as long as possible. “…it is an option that allows older Pennsylvanians to live independently while receiving services and supports that meet the health and personal needs of the individual [such as physician, nursing and rehab services, transportation and heavy physical assistance.]

Living Independence for the Elderly (LIFE) is a managed care program that provides a comprehensive, all-inclusive package of medical and supportive services. The program is known nationally as the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). All PACE providers in Pennsylvania have “LIFE” in their name. The first programs were implemented in Pennsylvania in 1998.” This is a program, if eligible, Medical Assistance (Medicaid) will pay for.

Final thoughts

In Pennsylvania, those who can afford to pay privately for the assistive care facilities, the burden is mostly on you. If you are someone who might qualify for coverage based on low income and assets, you may be fortunate enough to find a local option. But for a large chunk of older adults who fall between these two extremes, I wish I had more options to share. My advice is to be more proactive and anticipate the possibility of needing care as we age. Be mindful of unnecessary spending or gifting after retirement. Become more familiar with placement options and related costs. And most importantly, save more for retirement and earmark it for future care! We’re all living longer and care is not getting any cheaper. And although senior advocacy groups like LeadingAge™ PA continue the push to have ALR/PCHs receive partial government funding; current legislation is trending away from covering institutional types of care.

For more information or help on this topic, please contact Messiah Lifeways Coaching at 717.591.7225 or coach@messiahlifeways.org.

¹Genworth Financial Cost of Care Survey 2017
∗Current SSI rates as of 2018

 

Walker & Rollator Safety Tips

Written by Christina Weber, Director of Home Care Services

Article adapted from
“How do I use my walker (rollator)? at www.walkerfacts.com

More and more older adults are using wheeled walkers or rollators to get around. And whether you are a hired caregiver or a family caregiver, you can help minimize their risk of injury by encouraging safe use of their device. There are four main activities that users need to perform safely when using their walkers. These are: standing up, walking, turning, and sitting down.

Wheeled walker

Rollator

Common mistakes made while using walkers, wheeled walkers or rollators are made during these activities and include, but are not limited to:

  • Not engaging the brakes when sitting or standing.
  • Starting to sit while still turning in front of the chair/bed/toilet/car.
  • Taking uneven steps.
  • Holding the walker too close/too far away from you while taking steps.
  • Forgetting to use the walker – walking away from the walker.
  • Holding the walker with both hands while standing up and sitting down.
  • Leaning too far away from the base of support provided by the walker.
  • Twisting away from the walker while turning.
  • Sitting on the wheeled walker or rollator while someone pushes it. (Note: Some walkers are made with this capability, but you should conform the device is designed to do this.)
  • If the user needs assistance, help them by guiding their body forward and keeping their weight over their feet. Do not pull them through by their arms or shoulders. Also they should not hold onto you, they should hold on to the furniture and walker while you support them.

This devices were created to assist and support their users, but not used properly they can potentially create more danger and increase the chance of injury. For safe and efficient use of a walker, rollator or other ambulatory devices, please consult your therapist or physician. If you need additional information, please visit www.walkerfacts.com.

 

Thinking about moving to personal care?

Are you or a loved one considering a move to a Personal Care Home? One of the region’s newest options is Hopewell, which is the most recent edition to the Enhanced Living neighborhoods at Messiah Village. Check out the Top 10 Reasons to consider why a move to Hopewell might be the right choice for you.

  1. Hopewell embodies a new living option in personal care for individuals and couples. 26 new private apartments offer some of the largest personal care apartments in the region with four floor plans ranging in size from 532 to 767 square feet.
  2. Messiah Village offers a full range of daily living support options. Gain independence by obtaining your care needs without sacrificing your social needs.
  3. The Hopewell neighborhood is the newest addition to Messiah Village’s comprehensive care continuum – when skilled nursing or rehab needs arise, there’s no need to worry. A skilled team of outpatient physicians, clinicians, and therapists are available to meet your post-hospital needs.
  4. Your care will never be compromised, even if down the road financial worries loom. Our $16 million Endowment Fund for Benevolent Care means there is financial assistance if needed.
  5. Three well-balanced, chef-prepared, daily meals in the Asbury Room offer a delicious reason to leave your apron and skillets behind. If you crave a cappuccino or want to celebrate a special occasion with family, you can conveniently dine, at your own expense, in one of our four restaurants (3 of which you can access without ever going outside).
  6. Messiah Lifeways is a non-profit ministry governed by a local board of directors who live, work, and volunteer in Central Pennsylvania. You can rest assured that strategic decisions about your home are being made by people who believe in our mission.
  7. As a Messiah Village resident, trusted services from health professionals are available to you; no need to drive. You can schedule podiatrist, optician, audiologist, psychiatrist, and psychologist appointments on campus.
  8. Hopewell’s Asbury Room and Great Room are designed to resemble the inviting gathering spaces of private homes. Whether you’re entertaining family or playing games with neighbors, you will find a perfect spot to relax.
  9. Need a massage or manicure? Time for a new hair style? Leave the car keys aside and enjoy all-weather access to campus salons including the new Cerise Day Spa.
  10. So much more than your average retirement community…Amenities include a new Center for Vitality & Wellness with a warm salt water pool, lifelong learning courses, organized trips and more.

    Call 717.790.8201 for a private tour today!

       Adapted from the March 2018 Messiah Lifeways Preview Guide.

 

Dear Future Self

If you’re like most, you’ve likely had your fair share of “dear future self” moments, especially after bearing witness to the unwise, undesirable or unsafe behavior of others as well as our own transgressions. It can be a great influencer of not walking the same path or repeating history, or taking the optimist’s view and turning a bad choice into a teachable moment. This can apply to many different aspects of life…poor health choices, substance abuse, not taking responsibility for one’s actions, poor money management; the list can go on and on. But recognizing or even suffering the consequences of poor choices is not always enough to stop our own perpetuation of bad decision making.

Choices and our own mortality and well-being

During the cycle of life, adult children may one day experience an ailing parent making unsafe choices about their health and well-being. The ailing loved one may stop following doctor’s orders, not take their meds as directed, recklessly drive, live in an unsafe home environment, refuse help, or ignore a diagnosis. This list too can go on and on. Fortunately, many aging loved ones recognize and appropriately deal with some of the challenges of growing older. Accepting one’s own limitations, downsizing, moving to a care facility, asking or accepting help are smarter ways of responsibly growing older. For those who are true to themselves and are not too proud, accepting these actualities can ease a heavy burden from themselves and their loved ones. It can even be liberating!

In my line of work, I encounter families that feel “blessed” or “fortunate” that mom or grandpa realized they needed help, asked for a change and took control of their evolving lifestyle early on in their journey of aging. We often witness them living longer, healthier, happier lives when they surround themselves with care and a modified or age-friendly home or environment.

One the other hand I also meet older adults that are often described as “stubborn” and “ornery.” Pride and or denial cloud their judgment about their own safety and well-being. Memory and cognition impairment can also distort common sense and reasoning. They do not recognize their own deficits or the problems and challenges they create for themselves and their loved ones as they engage in unsafe or unhealthy choices.

Furthermore we hear family members proclaim they’ll never be that stubborn or uncooperative and won’t lay such burdens on their adult children. But again, others conversely admit they will be strong-willed and cantankerous “just like dad” or they forget just how difficult it was and perpetuate a similarly distressful journey for their family members.

Write it down to remember the lessons learned

Write your future self a letter, then open it when the time is right.

No matter your persuasion, I ask of you, or better yet plead with you, be true and accountable to your future self. Be proactive, plan ahead and remember the lessons you learned from taking care of your parents or grandparents. Write it down. Remember the struggles and heartache you had getting your father to accept the help he needed. Remember the pain and strife you dealt with having to make medical decisions on your mother’s behalf, because she did not have a living will. Remember the care facility you were forced to choose for dad because no preliminary research was ever done or even dare spoken of. If you experienced any of these or similar scenarios and it was painful and overwhelming, why would you want to put your children or caregiver through the same ringer?

Remember, being proactive about long-term care is not about admitting defeat or fearing the end is near, it’s about control and self-determination. Preplanning a funeral or researching care options for the future will not expedite an early demise. At age 65 these proactive decisions may not be relevant for 15-25 years, but isn’t it reassuring to yourself and your family that you have those ‘what ifs’ covered? At 85, if you need help to live safely in your home for as long as possible, embrace it and make a plan; do it the right way. If moving to a retirement community or care facility provides peace of mind for those who care about you, have an open mind; consider the possibilities. Be true and kind to your future self and those who care about you. They only want the best for you, just as you wanted the best for your parents.

If you have additional questions or would like to talk with me further, please contact me at 717.591.7225 or email coach@messiahlifeways.org.

Podcast 12: Reducing Caregiver Stress & Family Friction

Locking horns with a family member about an aging parent’s care? It can make an already stressful situation that much worse. Family dynamics, disagreement, and old wounds can make the process of caring for an ailing parent very complicated between family members, especially siblings.

This episode focuses reducing friction and caregiver stress between family members for the good of the cause by examining caregiver equity, putting aside differences and gaining new perspectives. Listen to the Coach’s Corner podcast and check out some the additional resources to make caregiving a little less stressful and more manageable.

Click here to listen to Episode 12

Additional resources to check out:

“What to Do about Mama?” by Barbara Matthews & Barbara Trainin Blank, published by Sunbury Press
www.amazon.com/What-Do-about-Mam…ers/dp/1620063158


“The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer ’s Disease, Related Dementia and Memory Loss” by Nancy Mace M.A and Peter Rabins, M.D. M.P.H. published by The Johns Hopkins University Press.
www.amazon.com/36-Hour-Day-Alzhe…ias/dp/1455521159


Or visit the Family Caregiver Alliance at www.caregiver.org