Whether you're thinking about parents, grandparents or another aging family member, it can be difficult to think about their health & life journey very far into the future. We're much more comfortable thinking about them as younger, carefree & vibrant than imagining that their lives could look much different in even a 5 year span of time. The reality is, however, that they will continue to age just as we will. In some families, this is an easy & comfortable conversation. In many Eastern & Near Eastern families, there is no question about where aging elders will go, they stay with family. In Western culture, things are not so cut & dried. Whether you've thought about this or not, it is important to communicate with those you love about this particular subject in order to find out their thoughts & hopefully to have a plan in place if/when it becomes necessary.
In some families, an elderly person will no longer feel comfortable living on their own once a spouse or significant other has passed on. If you suspect that this would be the case, it's important to open that discussion. Though it is difficult to think about, the reality is that many people will live out their elder years without the spouse of their youth. If the person who passed away is the more gregarious and independent of the two, this can cause some issues. Some people have depended upon another person for so many years that they may not be able to adequately function independent from another. An example of this is someone who has never gotten their driver's license or someone who has never had to take care of any of the bills that come with day to day life. If they have always had someone to take care of these things, they may not feel up to the task of learning them at an extremely late phase of life. You'll most likely have to open discussion about whether they would want to learn those skills & remain independent or whether they'd prefer to move into a place where those things are taken care of. There are certain group elderly care facilities or assisted living homes that have transportation options available for those who'd like to utilize them. Alternatively, if they are rather independent, but just need help with bills, you might be able to offer your services to help them learn the ropes, or offer to do bill paying once a month. The world has changed greatly in the past 50 years & things that are simple & straight forward to us are sometimes very foreign to the elderly in our midst.
If the elderly person you're arranging for is very active & energetic, look into group living situations. In some states it is becoming popular for elderly friends to cohabitate together for mutual benefit. They may choose a home or a few homes located in close proximity that they'll buy together & divide responsibilities while also having someone around for company & to keep watch on one another. This would only work if the people involved knew one another quite well & if the legal ramifications were well documented.
One of the main things that needs to be decided in the lives of aging seniors is whether or not they will spend a transitional time living with one of their children or grandchildren. How will that play out? Is that even an option? Whether it is or is not, the possibility needs to be discussed so that both parties are aware of expectations that may be there. Perhaps the aging individual would never want that because they'd rather not feel like a burden. Perhaps the child or grandchild would never want their aging family member to have to go into a home. As long as the plan is acknowledged & agreed upon by both parties, it will make the transition much smoother when the time comes. Changing a way of life can be incredibly stressful, but if some of the ramifications are discussed in advance, the stress level drops tremendously.
When care in an assisted living facility or by a family member becomes unrealistic, options beyond these will also need to be addressed. Is a full time nurse an option or is a nursing home more realistic? Where are the finances going to come from for each of these things? These items are not necessarily things that need to be decided at the onset, but preferences should be known in advance so that hard feelings do not develop.
Planning for the golden years & beyond is a difficult task. It is akin in stress levels to a child transitioning from high schoolcollege to going off into the world. Sometimes the preferences are not clear cut, & sometimes they are unrealistic. Through compassionate discussion & empathy, however, we can find solutions that will be good for all the parties involved so that our loved ones can live out the remainder of their lives in comfort & peace, knowing that they are loved & safe.