April 16 has been designated as National Healthcare Decisions Day by national, state and community organizations. This special day was established to encourage adults of all ages to plan ahead for a health care crisis. This is also a great day to focus on how you can prepare yourself and your loved ones to face the decisions that will confront us all as we age.
Many seniors don’t like to think of “end of life,” and shudder at the thought of downsizing, writing a will, moving to a small one-level home or into assisted living or an intermediate independent living community. Ignoring these issues only makes life more difficult. We all need to plan for the eventuality of illness, of needing hospital stays or help with daily chores and driving. Completing a form for advanced health care directives and who should make decisions when you cannot is critical. Whether it’s planning your funeral or memorial service, purchasing burial plots, or deciding who will be the executor of your estate, you should make your wishes known now and specify who will make these decisions if you can’t. Do you want extreme measure taken to keep you alive in the event of major damage or cognitive loss? All these factors and many more can become burdensome to your survivors. Now is the time to take action on these important chores. Your survivors will have enough grief. Don’t add to their difficulty by leaving your wishes unclear.
“Start the conversation,” says elder attorney Barbara Anderson, former president of Senior Services of Alexandria. She encourages seniors to take control of their future by planning now for how they want their lives to look at age 65, 75, 85 and beyond. She tells seniors to talk to their children, a trusted relative, friend or a professional about their wishes while they can, instead of having their future decided by someone else should an aging crisis arise.
“I really hated to move from my home, but I knew I needed to downsize because I didn’t want my children to do it for me,” said longtime Alexandria resident Molly Abraham. “I was able to choose what I wanted to get rid of or keep, and I made my own choices. I also made plans for my living situation and prepared for aging issues that can happen.”
Janet Barnett is the former executive director of Senior Services of Alexandria and currently community relations manager for Synergy HomeCare.
Let’s mark our calendars for Wednesday, April 16 as the day to start the conversation and plan ahead. Imagine how good you will feel after completing your plan knowing you are in charge.
Among the local organizations that can help with this planning are Senior Services of Alexandria, 703-836-4414, www.seniorservicesalex.org and the City of Alexandria’s Division on Aging and Adult Services, 703-736-5999, www.alexandriava.gov/aging. Each can provide resources and referrals to assist those ready to commit to planning their futures and participating in National Healthcare Decisions Day.