Elder Care: Prepare In your 20s & 30s For What’s To Come

January 13, 2015  |  

There is a scene in Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys, when the Kathy Bates’ character is looking at the Post-Its filled with instructions on her mirror, how to carry on her daily routine, important phone numbers, birthdays to know all to help her cope with the crippling effects of Alzheimer’s. This is one of my worst fears – not having my brain grow with me and I revert to a child with my elder care planning not in order.

Planning for your senior years can be just as stressful as selecting what college to attend. The difference is you only get one chance to plan for life post retirement, sickness and disability. Senior planning can be defined as the process of making life-changing decisions about you or loved ones while dealing with all the emotional baggage attached. As we age, assistance might be needed with basic tasks like getting dressed. And if a medical emergency occurs without a contingency plan in place, it adds to the burden of guilt and anxiety over what could happen in the family caregiver’s absence.

Real Talk: Planning for the winter season of life is a must and it starts now. #RESET

Michelle Oxley is a passionate speaker, mom, daughter, friend and professional Socialization Service Manger, MSW at a top geriatric center based in Queens, New York. I recently chatted with her on planning strategically and smart as it relates to elder care.

MadameNoire: How did you get into geriatric care?
Michelle Oxley: Longevity has always been a constant variable in our family. My grandmother lived to 100. I was always fascinated to learn about the field of gerontology. As a graduate student at Hunter College, I co-authored a booklet called “What Do I Do Now,” designed for caregivers to have a “roadmap” on the aging services available to them. In addition, I spoke at the White House Conference on the Aged (2003) on the burdens of care giving and was a committee member on the NYC Department for the Aging Alzheimer’s Conference, which allowed me the platform to share my knowledge of aging with well-respected and dynamic professionals in the field.

MN: What should African-Americans know about elder care planning?
MO: In this age-defying society we live in, it is important to have regular family meetings and know your family’s history of medical, psychological and physical concerns that may manifest itself as your family members age. Knowledge is truly power and patience a virtue. Be practical when it comes to family planning. If there are multiple siblings involved with your elderly parents, designate who will be responsible for what, so everyone has a stake and can be accountable to their role and hopefully avoiding burnout. Arm yourself with information. Be proactive instead of reactive since the decisions in any scenario can be costly if you are not prepared.  Do not be afraid to ask others for help.

MN: What has been the most startling trend you’ve noticed over the past decade?
MO: Many of my family and friends are caring for their aging parent while raising their children simultaneously. Juggling PTA meetings, doctor appointments and missing dance classes due to the fact that mom fell in the bathroom and requires medical attention. Colleagues and friends are clueless and overwhelmed with the challenges of finding assistance, navigating the sea of information to keep mom and/or dad safe at home. We simply do not have these conversations at the dinner table or around the water cooler at work. As African-American women, the challenges often are how to find reliable information and making decisions not based upon guilt and finances.

MN: As a mom/wife what do you fear the most about your senior years?
MO: The loss of my independence is what frightens me the most, be it physically, mentally and/or emotionally.  As a self-reliant person, the thought of having to rely on my family to take me where I need to go or make critical decisions for me is quite alarming. Therefore, I work tirelessly at staying fit and active. I want my legacy to be, “She has overcome the vicissitudes of life with the heart of a lion.”

MN: What have you done to press #RESET to prepare for the senior years?
MO: Personally, I invested in a long-term insurance policy in an effort to ensure that I will have the ability to maintain the quality of life in which I worked so hard for. Unfortunately, I do not have a pension to draw from, Social Security is not so secure these days and my 403 (b) may not be sufficient. I believe that my decision to invest in my future is filled with the knowledge I’ve used to invest in my daughter’s education. 

Tips to press RESET on elder care planning:

  • Have a checklist starting with preparing a will, advance directives and communicate your desires to those in your innermost circle.
  • Create a care team. Give your family and friends information about who will do what and when the experience of a life-altering event happens.
  • List all your medical providers, insurance, medications and emergency contacts. Have an I.C.E. – In Case of Emergency — category in your cell phone, knowing that emergency personnel are trained and know who to contact in the event of an emergency.
  • Create a bucket list. Cross out meaningful things that you hope to accomplish and start today.
  • Have a financial plan. Research establishing a trust in the event you or your loved one may require long-term placement. In an effort to avoid financial pitfalls, it is so important to know the laws in your state pertaining to the “look-back” period in order to quality for governmental assistance.
  • Get your “spiritual” house in order. Ensure that your connection with your higher power is in the forefront of your life. If not, nothing above matters!

Karen Taylor Bass, The PR Expert and Brand Mom, provides entrepreneurs, corporations and mompreneurs with essential branding, marketing and public relations coaching. Follow Karen @thebrandnewmom.

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