Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Plan for Myself as I Get Older

I worked in the disability field for several years and in the elder care field for a lot more years.  In both of those jobs I found that a lot of people simply ignored the truth - we are all going to get older, most likely we're going to get sick, and we're all going to die. 

I suppose that many of us hope that we're going to be just fine and very functional and then one day we'll just keel over and be gone.  The truth is it hardly ever works that way.  Most of us are sick and need help for awhile before we finally kick the bucket.  And in this day and age of prolonging life with technology, that period of sickness can get to be very, very long.

Family members of people with disabilities rarely have made legal arrangements for them for when their caregivers get sick or die.  One family member said her plan was to outlive her son with disabilities.  The only problem with that plan was that she was 40 years older than he was.  Almost no one I met with had made a plan for what they wanted their family members to do when they themselves got sick and needed help.  It's just stuff us human beings don't want to think about.  So we just pretend it isn't true and wait until there's a crisis.  Then everyone rushes around to take care of the problem without time to make good decisions.

It occurred to me the other day that although I knew exactly what I was going to do under what circumstances, I probably needed to put it in writing so that my family would know what I thought.  I've told them, but people can forget - especially when they don't want to think about it.  I do have an advance directive and a will.  But that's really not enough.

So...  if I have brain damage and am not able to take care of myself, I recommend that my family members take me straight to a nursing home and skip any guilt they would have about it.  During the time I worked in the elder care field, I visited every nursing home in my area and a lot of them around the state.  They are all pretty much the same.  The expensive ones have prettier furniture and surroundings, but they are the ones that cost almost double compared to the others.  Plus the expensive ones are short of care staff just like the less expensive ones. 

So my advice to my family is don't make a big deal out of it.  There aren't any good nursing homes so don't spend any money.  Do what you can to get me eligible for Medicaid (which will mean you'll have to sell a lot of my stuff) and pick a nursing home that is close to you or whatever.  I've been low income for virtually all my life so I think using Medicaid is perfectly appropriate.  In the final analysis, though, if I'm out of it, I hereby give them permission to do whatever is best for them.  It's not going to matter to me anyway.

When I get to the point where I shouldn't be driving - and I plan to take the AARP tests regularly to be sure that I am capable - I will move into an inexpensive place that will provide me with meals, some housekeeping and a little transportation.  I've already looked at some of those places and I could almost pay for one with my Social Security income.

I don't have a lot of money and I don't get a lot of Social Security so I supplement the Social Security with savings.  If I run out of money, my plan is to get a reverse mortgage.  My house is small so its value isn't that great.  But it would tide me over for awhile.  If I have to move, I will sell it and use the money for living expenses.

I am blessed that I am never lonely and am quite happy living alone.  I am blessed to have friends that help me if/when I'm sick and not able to get out.  I have alarms on my doors to scare off burglars.  I carry my cell phone with me so if I fall, I'll call somebody.  If I have a heart attack or a stroke and can't call somebody, one of those "buttons" wouldn't help me anyway.  Usually I talk to someone every day so if I were out of touch for a day, someone would check.  On the other hand, dying from a stroke or a heart attack isn't that bad a way to go.

To clarify regarding the advance directive - I have absolutely no fear of death.  I'm not in the least bit interested in living longer if I am dependent on someone else's care because my quality of life depends on my independence.  That might not be true for everybody, but it's true for me.  If and when I get older than 75, I'm going to sign a "Do Not Resuscitate" because 75 plus years is plenty long enough to live.  I don't need to be brought back from near death - it's time for me to go.

I've had a lot of deaths to deal with in my family and in my work life I've dealt with many of these issues.  So, I don't really have denial.  I've watched many people get old and have admired how some of them did it and been appalled at how others did it.  I don't plan to sit around and feel sorry for myself as I get more and more decrepit.  My objective is to live until I die rather than wait to die.  

I am taking good care of myself.  I eat nutritiously.  I work constantly at keeping my weight down.  I exercise. I do what I can to be useful to other people.  I ask for help when I need it.  I do little bits of service as part of my recovery program.  I have an active program of spiritual growth - prayer, a meditation practice, study.  So I hope I will remain independent and functional as close to my death as I possible can.   

Since this is a public blog, although this is written primarily for my family members, I hope it's useful to someone else.  I'm putting this here so that it's easy to find - it's online and in my data base.  If I change my mind about any of it, I can just update.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Path of Intuition

I'm just making a note of what I'm working on now:  I've made a commitment to myself to develop my intuition - to really spend some quality time with myself working on it.  I've felt for many years that this was what I needed to do, but wander off from it time after time.

It's really kind of anxiety provoking.  I'm used to relying on my rational mind for decision making and I've learned from the greater world that the best way to live is by self-discipline.  The thing is I'm 72 and a half and I'm still not disciplined even though I've worked at it for decades.  Also, my rational mind, smart as I think I am, has let me down time after time.

I spent some time a few days ago with a friend who does intuitive readings.  Right off the bat she said that I was longing for something very intensely that I still had not allowed myself to do.  I instantly knew what it was because for the past couple of years I've felt passionately about clearing away my time in order to focus. 


"The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery.  There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, and the solution comes to you and you don't know how or why." 

Albert Einstein

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Personal Preferences vs General Rules

Not having a lot of energy for running around in the world gives me time for introspection.  Not the most fun always.  I have realized that for a great deal of my life I pretty much considered myself to be the smartest person in the room.  That illusion led to my believing that my personal preferences should be the general rule for all human beings.  Wow!  That's crazy. 

I am grateful that I've found out I'm not always the smartest person in the room - in fact I rarely am.  I have a lot of talent with language which can make me seem smart but that's far from making me a genius! 

I'm also grateful to realize that personal preferences are just personal to each person - that what I prefer has no connection whatever to good vs. bad or right vs. wrong.  I just happen to love the color blue, dragons, and simplicity in decoration.  I just happen to prefer wearing black a lot because it makes me look less fat and it goes with everything else. 

I used to think that people who decorated with lots of brown and lots of furniture and do-dads were just plumb crazy.  They would be so much happier in the peaceful space of simplicity.  (They probably would think my personal preference created a  "cold" environment.)  I thought people who dressed in bright colors and lots of variety were spending too much of their precious time on dressing themselves and were frivolous.  (What if I'm just too lazy to care?) 

I prefer to wash all my laundry in cold water because it saves wear and tear and fading.  I only use half of a dryer sheet at a time, because I found out that's all that's needed.  I only put half as much dishwasher detergent in and my dishes are pretty clean.  All that seems kind of insignificant now but I used to feel pretty self-righteous about it.  I was saving money and the environment.  Uh...not so much that everyone "should" follow my example.

Now I've begun to understand that I was chasing after being "right" which made me feel a little less down on myself.  Thanks to my spiritual mentors, I've learned how to let go of my heavy self-criticism which in turn has helped me recognize the difference between personal preference and general rules.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

When Someone Dies Your Relationship is not Over

The love of my life left the earth about 8 1/2 years ago, but I am still discovering things about him, about myself, and about my relationship with him.  I keep an ongoing letter in my data base and add to it when I think of something I want to tell him. 

Often what I want to tell him is "thank you" because when I hear about someone else's conflicts with a spouse I realize I could have had their problem but didn't because of his good relationship skills. 

For example, he was a fabulous stepfather.  He never told me what to do as a mother.  He never criticized my children.  He told me that he saw himself as a person who could support me as a mother and that he intended to be a friendly adult in the lives of my children and grandchildren.  He gave us all a lot of encouragement and love and zero criticism.  He made us laugh a lot.

I've always said that one of the things I love in a man is an ability to keep his mouth shut.  Occasionally he would make a polite request for me to stop talking about something (usually an unresolved problem I was wrestling with) when getting up and leaving the room didn't work. 

When I got mad at him, he would say things like, "Remember me?  I'm on your side!"  Or, "I don't understand why you're so upset.  Please tell me what you want me to do."  Very reasonable.  Usually bumped me right out of my upset and into problem solving.

I really did know he was on my side.  I counted on that.  For the most part I was sure he wouldn't take advantage of me knowingly and that he thought I was pretty close to perfect.  (He must have thought that because he never voiced any judgments of me.)
I always felt respected as well as loved.  That surely made him easy to live with most of the time.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Most Generous Gift We Can Give Ourselves

When I was reading one of my recovery books this morning, I was happy to see one of the sentences that expressed a central principles of recovery programs.  The meaning was not new.  I've seen it and heard it thousands of times over the years, but I was just delighted to see it expressed in a way that was new to me.

Basically, it just said that maybe the most generous gift we can give ourselves is to treat everyone with compassion and respect - even those who have treated us badly.  Maybe even ESPECIALLY those who have treated us badly. 

Well, I used to think, that idea is just dumb.  How could anyone but a saint even do it?  Plus, how could that attitude possibly be a gift to myself

Of course, the reading explained it, and the answer is ridiculously obvious:  Harboring anger and resentment toward people who have treated us badly just keeps us tied to the past and to an ongoing cycle of bitterness that keeps us feeling miserable and victimized!

I have to be constantly reminded that it's to my benefit to live by spiritual principles.  It isn't to make me into a good person necessarily, but to make me into a happy, joyous and free person!!!

Blog Archive