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Planning for the future

I am going to talk about something not popular, but essential in later life.

It is drawn from many years of working with older folk in the community, often accompanied by many tears and regret.

The future is always an unknown factor in our lives, perhaps even more uncertain as we age. There is so much change we undergo. Our bodies change, usually not for the better. Our pace of life slows down and not always from choice. Our activities take on a different form and relationships change as we take on different roles. All this is made more difficult as we seem to loose our resilience.

It is precisely for these reasons that the coming days must be looked at fair and square. I say this because if you don't someone else is likely to look for you and decide for you, leading to a sense of hopelessness about your future which has been taken out of your hands. Any change of accommodation is stressful but more so in later years and possibly worse due to dementia.

The likelihood of needing some form of assistance grows with each year that passes ranging from shopping to care of the home and provision of meals.  More sensitive, is care of one's own body, the most personal thing we have.  It is now the stated intention of institutions, dealing with such matters, to encourage maximum participation of the one needing attention, enablement being the key word. This makes so much sense as depression can easily creep in when personal control is lost. Our bodies must be productive for as long as possible which is why residential and nursing homes appear to be such depressing places. 8 hours of sitting in a circle with others who are just as lost , with a TV blaring out with no one to watch.

Attitudes of staff towards maintaining independence and meaning in life, in all settings, is being addressed but such change requires a different mindset and training in a different set of skills. This applies also to those who are cared for by relatives and friends. It is not real care if these factors are side-stepped.

All these factors must be taken into account when deciding how you would like to spend the later years of your life.  Think of it as writing a living will to be used on the day that you cannot decide for yourself. Remember it is, in a way, also a community decision as others' lives are involved. Their daily commitments must also be considered, be they neighbour', spouse or family. As someone put it, 'there needs to be tolerance and understanding in order to establish a life-style which is mutually beneficial and acceptable'.This decision may well involve considerable expense if we are to get our wishes fulfilled. It is very difficult to come to terms with a future one would not have chosen.

One other aspect to take note of, is leaving others to sort through and dispose of belongings no longer required. It is often postponed because too great a problem to consider. As one changes in lifestyle and possibly downsizes in accommodation, regular 'stocktaking' can make all the difference and make it so much easier to deal with possessions. It should not be left to family and friends to sort and clear your possesions at a time that is already stressful.

It is so important to be proactive and realistic at a crucial time in our lives.