Expert Spotlight: Jim McCabe on How To Age Well
I recently took some time to reflect on many of the families I have worked with over the years and the challenges we have faced together. Thankfully, in most of those situations, we were relatively successful in addressing those challenges. In this article, I summarize those concerns and share some strategies for addressing them, organized around positive affirmations that can help you or your loved one to age well.
- I Will Maximize My Health – For many folks, their biggest fear is being a burden on those they love. The fact is that as we age, we can’t move the same way we used to. Changes in vision and hearing may require that a person make special accommodations to manage activities of daily living.We each have a significant amount of control over maintaining our health status. Being proactive about medical appointments, medication management, diet & exercise are great ways to maximize our health for as long as possible.
- I Will Embrace Having A Chauffeur – Probably the most significant sign of independence in our society is the ability to climb behind the wheel and cruise off to do errands, socialize with friends and family, or attend worship services. While many difficulties behind the wheel arise as a result of advancing years, there are great resources for adjusting to the changes. Many communities have transportation programs that are available for little or no cost. AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) has excellent tools for assessing driving skills and valuable classes for learning about techniques for continued safe driving (see www.aarp.org).
- I Will Make My House Safe And Comfortable – Falls can cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head traumas, and can increase the risk of early death. Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries.* Fortunately, falls are a public health problem that is largely preventable. Almost universally, people will tell me that their number one goal is to stay at home for as long as possible.
- What are the risks you are living with every day that could be eliminated so as to minimize the chance of you being a victim of a home accident?
- Are your halls and walkways free of clutter?
- Does your bathroom have grab bars and non-slick surfaces?
- Is access to your home as accessible as possible?
- Do you have stairs at the front entrance, to the basement, into the garage?
- One suggestion for measuring these risks is to have a Home Safety Assessment done. There are professionals available that you can contract with to perform a safety review of your living environment. In addition, many of these folks will provide a written summary of their findings and make recommendations for things to be done and professionals to do the work.
- I Will Plan For The Future And Utilize Expertise – There are a number of factors at work here, but the fact is, financial security is one of the primary keys to safety and security as we age. This is an area where working with a professional planner is of the utmost necessity. Very few have the training and experience to manage and plan financial affairs to the maximum benefit. Much like engaging the help of professionals in health care matters, a financial consultant is critical to life planning.
- I Will Communicate To My Loved Ones – The key in all of these scenarios is communication, not only with our health and financial professionals, but with our loved ones as well. Families struggle with having those difficult conversations if they have them at all. The issues often include topics such as: Who will decide when there is a health crisis? What if mom is no longer able to live at home alone? How can I manage dad’s declining cognitive status? Are the resources available to fund the process? What should you do? Block out time to have a family meeting to discuss issues of concern and if you are reticent to take it on, ask a third party to help you. Your planner, a geriatric care manager, or other professionally trained counselor can facilitate the process. Those individuals who have had “the conversation” with their loved ones will say that managing the expected and unexpected events of life are better when a plan is in place.
*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention