Aging often brings on a need for any number of oscopies to assess particular medical issues. These typically require sophisticated equipment, procedures, and selected health care specialists. A different oscopy can be just as important in later years, one that lay people can conduct with no technical equipment or procedures. All that’s required is open and candid dialogue about facets of daily living in later years.
Older adults and their families too often neglect important “layman’s” assessments, according to Lakelyn Eichenberger, Ph.D., Home Instead gerontologist and caregiving advocate. She notes, “Dodging important issues not only can jeopardize an aging loved one’s health, but could lead to family discord and unhappiness. Starting the conversation is the first step.”
What Eichenberger is referring to in this case are a number of everyday questions and concerns that can have significant impacts on people as they age. While such things can sound low-level, they can have high-level implications. Which is why a checkup to have a look at them is important. Think of it as a unique type of preventive medicine that is, well, less medical. Home Instead offers the following six questions and associated considerations as a checkup guide and a way to get vital conversations going.
Where would you like to live out your senior years?
Retirement community? Co-op village? Downtown loft? Suburban bungalow? Over age 55 apartment complex? Accessory dwelling unit? Most seniors have a good idea what they want, and the vast majority want to stay in their own homes, whatever “home” means to them. Ask questions like “What things would you never want to give up in your forever home?” “If you were diagnosed with dementia tomorrow, where would you want to live?” And “If you needed care at home, would you rather it be from a family member or a care professional?”
What lifestyle do you desire as you grow older?
What do you want to occupy your time with as you reach your later decades? Travel? Caring for grandkids? Hobbies? Volunteering? Part-time job? Recreational activities with others? Do you have the financial and other resources to do what you want to do? What’s more important to you—memories or money?
How do you plan to stay healthy as you age?
Do you believe you’re doing things right with exercise, diet, sleep, and staying current on health exams? Are there areas you would like to improve on? Can you handle prescription medications well? Are you good with contacting your physicians or other health experts when you have symptoms that make you concerned?
If you find yourself single, what will you do?
First off, will you be okay staying single or will you feel a strong need to have a partner again? If you lost your spouse, would you even feel like dating again? If you’re comfortable going solo, how much socialization will you need or want? Where will you look for it? Do you already have some of that built into your life? If you will seek out a new partner, where will you look? Do you feel you understand the opportunities and the risks with ways of dating today for older persons? How important is “romance” as compared to “companionship”? What if you wish to date but your family objects?
How do you see yourself getting around if you can no longer drive?
Driving is a key source of independence. Some older persons choose to reduce their driving, perhaps limit it to daylight hours. Many continue to drive normally and safely. Giving up the keys completely can be a psychological blow. Are you confident and comfortable with your driving ability (be honest). Do you have others who can readily step in to take you places if that becomes necessary? Have you tried ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft? If not, would you be willing to try and do you feel they are safe? Do you know how to access professional transportation services designed specifically for seniors?
How do you want your final years to look for you and your family?
Planning for end of life and/or final years of life is hardly a fun subject. But it deals with what is inevitable, and it’s important to not ignore it. Having discussions and plans ahead of time can lessen confusion and stress during a time of trauma and crisis. There are practical issues like end-of-life medical treatment preferences, feelings about hospice care, and funeral arrangement wishes. There are also psychological/emotional issues such as fear of losing physical or mental abilities and fear of dying itself. A key benefit of having these discussions is that it can help make it possible for you and/or your loved ones to live life to the fullest until the end.
Recent surveys have found that almost half of all adults say the COVID-19 pandemic has made them more likely to talk about end-of-life plans. What’s more, this can all be done in the comfort of your home.