Give advanced planning some thought
It seems so simple, don’t it? But if you are like me, you naturally avoid doing things you don’t enjoy or for which you lack skills. That’s normal and understandable. I also understand we are all crazy busy, and most of us would rather have a root canal than think about that time when the party is winding down.
But if you are a Boomer like I am, then you need to take some time to think about this stuff, if for no reason other than to not leave a mess for your kids. Help them help you by getting in front of this. I found it helpful to think about my final stretch in three broad phases:
The young/old phase:
In this phase I am still energetic, relatively healthy, still willing to rollup my short sleeves and get a job done, still wanting to enjoy those peak life experiences BUT…I may be experiencing some ageism in the workplace, may be working hard caring for an older parent and starting to dip into my savings, wondering how long they’ll last. I may have had my first real health scare or find myself wanting to go to bed just a tad earlier. But I still get my own bags down from the overhead bin!
The old/old phase:
OK, now you let the stronger, younger guy get those bags down for you, plus give you all kinds of other help, because you need it. Sure, inside you are still 30 years old, but your body isn’t, and you are experiencing all the vicissitudes of old age, starting with decreased strength and mobility. You may also find yourself thinking, “I don’t understand the world and all it’s complexities anymore. I don’t belong here.” Be careful with that kind of thinking, because it can lead to withdrawal from the world into what some call “islands of old age,” as characterized by most (but not all) assisted living places nowadays. Is that what you want?
Now, some 75% of Americans want to age in their own homes (called “aging in place”) but only 25% do, and there’s a reason for that: in-home nursing care is expensive. Some of you may say to yourselves, “No worries. My kids will take care of me for free.” OK, but did they sign up for that? Have you talked to them about it? The time to have that conversation is before you get to this phase, and be sure you both know what you are getting into. Caregiving is very hard work, and not every child is cut out for it. Sometimes it’s better to let your kids be your kids, and let pros handle the care.
The dying/dead phase:
Most folks give this nary a thought and expect to just be cremated, which is what happens more often than not. But again, is that what you really want? Have you researched the options?
I think of it this way. At some point in my future, I will with 100% certainty get strapped to the top of a rocket aimed at the furthest distances of the uncharted universe. Just before lift-off, my conversation with ground control in Houston might go something like this:
Me: Where am I going?
Houston: We don’t know.
Me: What will I experience as the rocket takes off?
Houston: We don’t know that either.
Me: Is anybody coming with me?
Me: What will I find when I get “there”?
Houston: We haven’t got a clue. Talk to your religious leader.
Get the picture? At some point in your future, perhaps at any time, and with 100% certainty, you will take the grandest, scariest, most adventurous, least predictable rocket trip of your life. If you were an astronaut with NASA, would you plan for this trip? Hell yes, you would!
But I’m not dead yet!
True dat! And the goal here, as I stated in my introductory post “Why Concern Yourself with Advanced Planning?” is to make every day on the green side a good one…all the way to lift-off! I certainly hope you are presently enjoying peak life experiences while you also make some time to act on my top tip, think about what you want for yourself and your loved ones, and start having some meaningful conversations with them. If you do that, you are way ahead of the game!
When you are ready, I urge you to take the most important step in Advanced Planning, which you will find here:
In the meanwhile, below are a couple of shows I am confidant you will find helpful.
“Caring for America’s Most Vulnerable” with John Maycroft, an expert on Advanced Planning. In this very short interview with John, recorded live at the 2017 Coalition for Advanced Care annual conference, you’ll benefit from his perspective on the importance of Advanced Planning. John is the one who turned me on to The Conversation Project, a good (and free) resource for getting started.
“Let Go of Fear and Cut a New and Better Life Groove” with Jon Underwood, founder of the Death Cafe. Jon, who recently passed away, was a beautiful man with a beautiful idea: Have coffee and cake and just talk with a few friends. So simple, and yet, so powerful.
“Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death” with Michael Hebb, TedX speaker. Pop the cork on a bottle of wine with a few trusted friends, and have an honest, intimate conversation. Talk through your preferences…listen to how others think. Weigh the options. It’s so important to know what your options are so you can make informed choices.
Don’t forget, when you are ready, go to the next step in your planning process, and the most important one.