Never Surprise Anyone: The Time to Talk is Now

by Connie Dunwoody, Broadmead Care Foundation – 

I don’t know about you, but it seems my mom was right (again). The older you get, the faster life goes. Or maybe it’s just a different perspective: the older you get, the more you realize how quickly life can change. A friend shared an analogy with me that goes something like this:
Imagine a yardstick divided into four equal quarters.

The left-hand quarter is age 0 to 20. Life is good. You’re young, carefree, making friends, surviving the stupidity of innocence. You’re exuberant, happy-go-lucky. You’re gonna live forever.

The next quarter represents age 20 to 40. You’re starting your career. Maybe you meet the love of your life and start a family. You’re super busy, tired all the time, and hardly notice the years going by.

Age 40 to 60 is the midpoint of the yardstick. The kids move out. You start saving more seriously for retirement. You get to focus on you. Life steadies out a bit. And then …

You’re in the final quarter of the yardstick! You retire, and start to “live the dream.” Suddenly your parents need help as they age, and it occurs to you, in a way it hasn’t before: this could be you. Good grief, it’s worse than that. It will be you.

What a shocking revelation. When did I get to be the “old person?” Why didn’t I notice when the proverbial hill stopped going up, and started to slope ever-so-gently downwards?

Which got me thinking. How prepared am I, and how much have I shared with the people who will look after me? Those are sobering thoughts when both answers are: not enough!

Perhaps one of the most important things we can do ahead of time, apart from documenting everything, is to engage in conversation now about what we want, and also what we do not want. I see two sides to this conversation: the part where we’re the old people, and the bit where we’re the caregivers. They’re equally important – and equally valid.

My husband and I cycle a lot. One of my cardinal safety rules is: never surprise anyone. One of the best ways to never surprise anyone is to have a clear plan in place that recognizes everyone’s perspective. And yes, you’re allowed to be clear about what you want as you age, and set boundaries about what you’re comfortable doing, as a potential caregiver.

I work for Broadmead Care, which owns and operates five long-term care Homes in the Greater Victoria area. I have seen firsthand how “caring” can become an incredible amount of work and stress, especially when someone transitions from being a partner, or child, to being the caregiver. Having a plan in place can help ease the transition when the time comes.

Talking about aging can be uncomfortable, so here are some tips to help:

Choose the Right Time. Find a quiet, stress-free time to talk.

Be Patient. These conversations can be emotional. Listen carefully and respect each other’s feelings.

Stay Positive. Focus on finding solutions together.

We always think there will be more time: more time to do things together; more time to prepare; more time to talk. And honestly, the yardstick is getting a little closer to the right-hand side than I’d like to admit.

Never surprise anyone. The time to talk is now.

Connie Dunwoody is Communications Coordinator for Broadmead Care. She’s determined to have some uncomfortable conversations in the near future.

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