By Amy Stephenson
You’re growing older and you may notice some changes in your body and interests. This is perfectly natural. Others are going through the same thing. Sound familiar? While the birds and the bees may not have been your favourite topic when you were a teen, it was important. A rite of passage to create a safe, open dialogue around a complex topic. Those awkward moments may be a distant memory now and good for a few laughs, but there is another equally important conversation to consider.
Aging is natural whether you’re 15 or 65 and it is a process that we all handle uniquely. Much like puberty, your later years can bring about a host of changes. As we age, there are significant emotional and physical changes. Ageism and retirement alter social and financial standing. Health is increasingly dynamic with a rise in chronic and acute conditions. All of these changes can lead to conflicts or unfortunate situations that are avoidable by being proactive. Having open conversations about priorities with your circle of care is essential to proper planning.
Sharing every greying hair accomplishes as much as a preteen announcing every pimple, but there are key topics. Here I outline two prominent themes: housing and health.
Housing: Are you determined to stay at home as long as possible or quick to downsize? At what point would you consider bringing in help or moving if your capacity were to decline? Are you expecting to move in with a family member or have private care? These are pertinent questions. Aging in place is often preferred but a time may come when it is simply not practical. Being open to entertaining different ideas lets you see practical options and allows everyone to express their opinions in a non-intrusive or burdensome way.
Your care plan is improved when those around know your rationale. Talking about major “what if’s” in advance avoids rushed decisions. Consider your capacity to live in a place with changes in your driving status, health conditions or the condition of the home.
Having an Advance Care Directive and choosing a Power of Attorney can also help remove the need to make decisions in stressful medical settings. Writing out a care directive lets you consider options with a clear and level head. This ensures that you receive care in line with your wishes. Once you have considered your wishes, sharing them provides critical insight to those who may act on your behalf. For help on what to consider check out Ontario’s Advanced Care Planning Kit at dyingwithdignity.ca/download_your_advance_care_planning_kit.
Advanced Care Directives can’t cover everything, so this is where a designated Power of Attorney comes in. Choosing who you want to make care decisions on your behalf is important. Making the decision when you’re well means it can truly reflect your values. Talking about values prevents making hard decisions during times of high emotion.
Housing and health and the birds and the bees are both awkward conversations, but essential. There are more resources online at www.advancecareplanning.ca.