Later in Life: Who Has Your Back?

by Irwin Lengel

This Stage of Our Life

As I sit here enjoying my first cup of coffee for the day, staring out the window watching a squirrel scavenge the feed from the bird feeder set there by my son to feed the myriad of birds that frequent the site, my mind wanders off thinking of the future and wondering just where we will be say, five or ten years from now.

We have been taught from little on up that you go to school, get a good education, get a job, marry and have children, succeed at your job, retire, and subsequently die. But one thing I do not remember being told or discussed during these life events is who will look out for us, once retired, when we are unable to care for ourselves? In other words – between the retiring and dying stage!

My father died at an early age (mid-fifties) and never got to enjoy retirement. My mother was able to manage on her own for many years afterward with little assistance from my siblings (we had already moved to Florida and only got back home once a year). My mother lived to be in her mid-eighties and was fortunate enough to secure living quarters in a high-rise senior citizens home where she was able to care for herself for most of her retired life.

But what of us that chose for whatever reason to spread our wings and become adventurous at a young age, leaving not only the city where our siblings live but the state as well. In addition, we have taught our young that the sky is their umbrella so to speak and as such the children no longer grow up and find jobs settling down and raising a family in the same city as their parents – they move! Such is the case with us as our children live at different ends of the country. How does one plan for our senior years in that environment?

To be quite frank – the decision is hard. Fact is that due to the sheer economics of todays’ times, not all children grow up to be financially secure. Oh, I am not saying they are poor and destitute. What I am saying is that in today’s economy, making ends meet for one family is a goal unto itself let alone taking on the role of caretaker for one’s parents. But many children are assuming that role today in spite of their own current financial status.

How then is the matter resolved? See where the question is coming from? I would venture to say that first and foremost, if the parents still have all their mental faculties, they should be included in the planning process including where they want to live and how they want to live out the balance of their lives should the day come that they can no longer live on their own. This will require dialogue between the parents and siblings and each situation will be different.

What if one sibling has both the resources and finances to take in the parents while the others do not? What then? Here again is where, in my opinion, the parents should have the final word. The end result here is to make the parents’ final days of retirement both comfortable and less stressful, without I might add, not adding stress to the siblings life as well.

Most of my adult life I have tried to look ahead and thus be prepared for whatever life tends to throw my way. True, there have been times that unforeseen events slip in there and throw a monkey wrench in our plans – we all have those type incidents – but the fact is that being vigilant in the way we live our lives every day enables us to plan for the next stage of our lives.

Being at the stage of life we are in, one begins to think about how we would like to spend our last years. You know – those years when we are no longer able to get up and go like we used to. Remember the response given by the husband when caught by his wife looking at other women: “Hey, I am old – I am not dead!” Same philosophy, we may be old and not quite as active physically and/or mentally but we are not dead. We don’t want to be a burden on anyone but do hope that we can be where someone – as they say in U. S. Military jargon – has our backs!

What about you? How prepared are you for what the future might hold once you reach such a stage in your life?

Until next time!

Comments for Later in Life: Who Has Your Back?

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by: Sheila, Cambridge, Ontario

For my husband and me, it was easy. I was volunteering (note that word!) at a seniors' facility when I decided that was where I wanted to end my days. My husband and I put our names on the waiting list and after a few years we were called. We accepted, moved in and we both became volunteers.

After my husband died, I moved into a smaller apartment in the same facility and at 91 I continue to volunteer. I am in fair health. Thanks to the Canadians Veterans,I have help with housekeeping and shopping.I will end my days here. No problem for our three kids.

The key word here is Volunteer. When you give to others everything falls into place.

no children or siblings
by: Patti Z

what does one do without family... just my husband and I

Planning ahead
by: Freddy/Jersey

I think its important to plan ahead. Having had to deal with the difficulties of dealing with a parent's failing health, dementia, commitment, death and estate administration over a long period of time...all at a difficult time in my own life...i know its not something i would wish on anyone.

Im hoping to simplify my life as i transition into retirement, and maybe pick someplace sunny and warm to spend my active to not so able years.

Very good topic part 2
by: Nancy

My husband and I have spoken to an undertaker and have discussed what funeral plans we would like. One thing my husband and I need to talk more about is what to do with our property when we are no longer able to care for it. I also need to work on downsizing and getting rid of a lot of stuff.

You are very right, that we need to plan for the next stage of life. I used to fear death, but a lot of it was the unknown. A lot of guesswork can be eliminated with planning.

Very good topic
by: Nancy

and one I haven't seen here before.

My mother lived to be 94 and was in very poor health: blind and almost deaf. She needed to be in a nursing home, but she wanted to stay in her own home with 24 hour care. This was very costly and a logistic problem which my sister took on, the planning part, not the money.

My mother had abused me all my life and I was creeped out by being around her at all so I reneged on my "responsibilities" in regards to her.

This led to a big resentment between me and my younger sister who was in charge of her care. My sister pressured me to give money to my mother.

So I agree with you that there should be a dialogue between parents and children. Communication was lacking in my bio family.

My husband and I have a retirement investment called "forecare" which will allow us to have in home care, and then if we need to go to a nursing home. We have also updated our wills and spoken

Who Has Your Back?
by: Paula/Texas

I'm very lucky to have a wonderful daughter who does not want me to live alone. She and I have been through some very difficult times, her dad walked out on us when she was a baby, a teen pregnancy, a drug addicted first husband, being homeless, but we survived.

Now we live in a nice house with her current husband, her son and his girlfriend, plus three dogs and three cats! Oh and occasionally my son-in-law's 16 year old son. It's an arrangement that is working well for all of us although I know at some point my son and girlfriend will get their own place.

But my point here is that I know my daughter and son-in-law are there for me. They have already taken over most of the household bills, except the house payment which I pay, and take care of the yard and other house maintenance that I cannot do.

My daughter and I get on very well. We "get" each other. My son-in-law and I have had our differences but for the most part we get along too. So it's a win win situation for all of us but especially for me!

by: Ricardo

This is in response to Irwin's reflections on aging and the preparation for same, including death.

I have always tried to "plan for the best, BUT, be prepared for the worst." With that philosophy in place thru out ones life, there are rarely "surprises." IF, as we age and near our own demise, we have not made plans, but instead become a burden on the people around us, shame on us!

NO ONE owes us anything, and NO ONE cares more about our mental or physical state Or our finances than WE DO!

It is not the job of a physician to see that we eat properly, or exercise, or remain socially is OUR responsibility!

Investment in OURSELVES and our own well being thru out our lives is the greatest investment of all, and it falls on our shoulders to either make it happen or not. An investment advisor may give advise as a physician may do, however if we do not take that advise, we become OFTEN times our own worst enemy.

Once again, the burden falls on US, not them! Preparation for aging should be an ongoing concern as should the planning of "the end."

Do NOT wait to long and leave these burdens to others, take responsibilities now, and plan, plan, RESPONSIBLE TO YOURSELF AND THOSE THAT LOVE YOU......!!

I Have My Own Back
by: Fern, Canada

Years ago, during a time of layoffs, Human Resources referred us to a book called 'A Company of One' and recommended we stop looking at an organization as a parent. Good advice.

Now we need to look at 'Aging vigorously by the one.' Why assume we need so much help in order to enjoy aging? We can question these stereotypes that were adopted by our parents and grandparents.

Your message would benefit from some clarification of points. I wasn't quite sure what you were trying to say. I do find that estate planning is very different from retirement planning in financial terms.

It pays to get some advice regarding what happens to your investments when you die. The consequences sometimes end up with the executor in debt regarding taxes if not well thought out.

We are also living much longer. I have already outlived my birth family, which was never large. Others have no birth family for various reasons. We need to look elsewhere, perhaps not dismissing friends as disposable resources!

In other words it is a vast new world as far as having someone to look after your old age, at least for whites in North America. Our cultural independence is one factor. Doesn't mean we can't look at other cultures with methods that work, or we can re-invent what it means to 'have our own backs'.

where I am
by: Rose Raintree Arlington Wa.

Right now I am blessed to be in pretty good health and active and being an RN I have always been someone who thinks ahead of the worst possible scenarios and tried to plan for them.

So before I retired I purchased a mobile home in a 55+ park 2 miles from my son, DIL and Granddaughter. Now he is not a care giver so my hope is to remain right here with other neighbors nearby and my age some older and some in worse condition and still managing to live on their own in this environment.

I still drive and do my own shopping, take care of my yards, and get out with friends, go to church, and walk every day. If something unforeseen should happen that I could not longer live alone that would be unfortunate and require some planning as I cannot afford the assisted living places around me.

But I am blessed where I live that I could get home health if need be for a short time. I think as much as we plan it is difficult to plan for every thing. So my prayer is that I simply go to sleep one night and wake up in heaven. But who knows.

I just do my best to take care of my health and trust that God has taken care of me this far so I think HE will meet my needs the rest of the way whatever they may be.

plans for later in life
by: mildred/tn

I have done the will, funeral prepaid,power of attorney and medical power of attorney etc. I have left instructions concerning what I pay each month,banking,etc.

How long to leave me on a ventalator if needed. letters to each of my children telling them how much they have meant to me etc.

The biggest thing that I still need to do is declutter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What next?
by: Elayne/Michigan

What a great question! Even though I think I've planned everything for the time I will no longer be able to care for myself - excellent medical insurance, long term care insurance, sufficient savings, prepared burial arrangements,etc., I still think about how I will end my days here on earth.

I think about it but I try not to stress out about it.

I'm nearly 70 and often sit with a friend who has Alzheimer's/dementia and I've seen how your life can change slowly and almost unnoticeably and then come roaring at you like a freight train.

Will I be lucid enough to know how or who will care for me?

My sons have their families and I can only hope they will want to and be able to see that I have the best care whether it's given by them or someone else. I guess we'll just have to trust in the Lord that all will go well.

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