betty and doug“I had certainly heard about this condition, but I never thought it would happen to me”.

That is a direct quote from a 93 year old gentleman who has become dear to my heart.

It was my privilege to accompany “Doug” on an Honor Flight to Washington DC in September.  Doug served in both WWII and the Korean War.  While 93, he could easily pass for 80.  He is very physically healthy and robust (he has walker to use for safety but often forgets to use it).  We used a wheelchair in DC because of the distances involved.

Doug has short-term memory loss.  He lives in a supportive care environment where he does well but he would not be safe being alone at this time due to the memory loss.  I went out to visit him yesterday.  He was delighted to have the company although not sure how he knew me.  He is well aware of the memory loss and says “I just wish there was a pill for it but there’s not so I just make the best of it”.  He remembers bits and pieces of our day in Washington along with snippets of my previous visits.  He still has a twinkle in his eye, a great memory for his early years, and a desire to enjoy the time that he has left.

As we were chatting about various topics yesterday and he was talking again about his memory challenges he said “I had certainly heard about this condition but I never thought it would happen to me.”

Those are the words from a 93 year old!  What I generally hear from the baby boomers who meet with me is “I don’t plan to ever end up in a nursing home.”

Guess what– NO ONE PLANS TO END UP IN A NURSING HOME– No one expects to need care– Many do–Few expect to live to 93–Many do–Doug did.

It’s realistic to think that if you are a healthy 60 year old you have a greater chance of living a long life. The longer we live, the more likely it is that we will need care. Often it’s our minds rather than our bodies that fail us making it unsafe for us to live alone. Who will take care of us?  Doug has outlived two of his three children.  His daughter is in her 70s, lives in Colorado, and is having health issues of her own.

I hear people say “I’ve told them to just pull the plug if I get into that situation”. NEWS FLASH: There is no plug to pull!  Many, like Doug, are still enjoying life.  He can give (and receive) a big welcoming hug.  He can enjoy a joke.  He can light up at the gift of some homemade goodies. He can speak with pride of how he served our country.  He’s not in pain.  He’s not miserable. He can express that he feels safe but sometimes lonely. He can say “I sure enjoyed visiting with you.  Please come back.”  He can tell me that he likes chocolate chip cookies the best.

He didn’t expect to need supportive care.  Fortunately, he has the resources to pay for it.  What would his life be like if he didn’t?  What would his 70 year old daughter’s life be like if she was responsible for his care while dealing with her own health issues?

Life happens.  Be prepared to deal with it. Hope for the best possible outcome but be prepared “just in case.”  It’s a lot easier for you and for your family to deal with the emotional aspect of a care situation if you do not also have to deal with the financial aspect of it.