The stressful decisions coming with middle age.
We all make tough decisions in our life. Some we are happy we have made and others we wish we could change. This is just how it works for each one of us. When we are older these decisions take on a new, brighter light; perhaps because there is less time to correct if the decision was made in hast and maybe because it is a reminder of where we are on the bell curve of life. The important thing for each of us to bring to mind and keep there is we have led a productive, community life. And we need now to honor our deepest values and responsibilities.
Decision 1: Driving
We have driven most all of our adult life. Many of us associate driving with the right to drive as adulthood and independence. No one wants to believe that they are too frail or feeble to drive, and in most cases this is not the case. Most of the time – when we are faced with the decision to stop driving and seek other modes of transportation, it is because we are realizing our limitations.
There are very few people out there who would choose driving over a life of another. So many of us give up driving because a light bulb comes on that indicates we are not driving safely at this time. This decision is a good decision and the alternatives are bountiful. We can ride with others going the same place we are and save money on gas. Any savings in today’s economy this is a blessing all the way around. We can take the bus. Are you aware that this service is not the service of our younger years? Now in many, if not most, cases we can be picked up right at our door be a small bus and delivered to the door of our destination. Or for the sheer opportunity for exercise, we can ride the larger bus and get off at the correct stop that is usually within 2 blocks of our destination. We can take a taxi, it will cost a little more, however, not as much as a private chauffeur. Or yes we can call public chauffeurs, such as taxicabs, car and driver for lease or others.
The importance of this is to remember we do not have to live with all the stress of driving, especially in traffic or through road construction; we have alternatives. And we can save ourselves the stress of working up to the drive to the store or doctor. Because whether we want to admit it or not, each of us feels some stress when we are getting behind the wheel that we might hurt someone or get hurt ourselves.
Decision 2: Living arrangements
Making the decision to move from our home and into a senior living residence is huge. First of all, we have to learn many new important living changes. And second, we are (to our way of thinking) giving up what we worked for all our lives – our own home. Granted it is very hard to sell our home and leave the neighborhood we have lived in for a great number of years. It is just as hard to give up an apartment and move away for the same reason, so for the sake of this article it does not matter if we are talking a freestanding home, a condo, an apartment or whatever, the outcome is all the same.
First no matter who we are this moving business is expensive. There are utilities to shut off and perhaps turn on after the move; there is the sheer cost of moving from one location to another one. Whether it is a Rent-a-haul with family and friends doing the packing and lifting or a professional mover doing the work it is expensive. And it always seems that some things just do not fit, and some things just have to be replaced. Whether it is the bed, the microwave or the couch, the whole point is we inevitably end-up buying something. And then there is the monthly cost of the new place. I am not sure why, but we can move from a 5 bedroom, 2-story house on a half acre into a one-bedroom senior complex and it will cost more monthly than the house ever did. The conundrum the new place has more amenities than we ever did (meals prepared, laundry done, housekeeping, no worries about sidewalks or drive-ways to shoveled, air conditioning in the summer, no need to worry about power outages, most have emergency generators, at the very least there is many of you in the same boat).
But forgetting all of that just focus on the stress of this step. Whether we are making this decision on our own or a team of others (family, medical staff or ?) this is stressful. Again, our independence is in jeopardy and what happened to taking care of our elders in their own home and under their own conditions. Here is what happened. Fifty or sixty years ago, life was different and senior living facilities were not there for the average citizen; it was the nursing home or the home, and family exchange their life for taking care of the elder. There are alternatives to those two situations but they will cost us money depending on our choice. We may have some financial shelters to keeps us afloat, however stress is still the mitigating factor. There is only one right decision and that is the one made after long contemplation and at least a couple of family meetings. The worse decision is made from a hospital room with a floor social worker making it for us. Preplanning is the most important stress reliever we can have.
Next time, we will discuss a couple more big decisions and begin on some goal setting to solutions.