"The dying offer the living a final chance to be the best that they can be. We must take our cues from them, value the moments that lead up to and follow their departure and work toward acceptance after they are gone. This is a vow as sacred as any we will make over the course of our lifetimes.” Nancy Cobb, “In Lieu of Flowers”
You may not be thinking about dying today. Realistically you, and even a senior loved one you’re caring for, could have many years ahead. “But living well to the end really is thinking about the last day of your life,” explained University of Nebraska at Omaha Gerontologist Dr. Julie Masters. “When you face death, you face life. There’s power in not being afraid of it and recognizing it can happen.”
Beginning with the end in mind helps bring certain topics and issues to the forefront. “It may be starting to give away things and declutter your house, or thinking about philanthropic efforts and what legacy you will be leaving.”
Masters encourages a multi-faceted self-assessment of financial, physical, environmental and spiritual aspects of life. “Ask yourself, ‘Where am I in life? Am I at peace with myself and my life?’ There’s value to thinking about that.”
The decisions made today regarding final years’ choices – or the lack of decision-making and planning – could have ramifications long after someone has left this earth, Masters explained.
Not being clear about preferences and deferring decisions could leave families second-guessing their decisions. “Some people have a sense of guilt or feel that they didn’t do enough. Or mistakes may have perceived to have been made while a vulnerable adult is in someone else’s care. Hindsight can be cruel, but cut yourself some slack. We do the best we can with what we’re given. Knowing what someone wants or doesn’t want in their final years of life can make a tremendous difference,” she added.
“Appreciate the moment now, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I’ve seen some older couples who are sure their spouse will outlive them, but then they don’t. We think we know how it’s going to play out, but then it doesn’t go that way. We think we have more control than we do. But we do have control over the questions we ask: What we want to have or not have done. Take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to talk about those issues.
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.