In an earlier article, “Retirement planning – its not what you think,” I talked about the planning required to have a quality of life after retiring from one’s job that relies on spending your time in a way that pleases you, and benefits others.
My closest friend, Sophia (not her real name), is in her 80th year of life and for the seven years that I’ve known her, Sophia has struggled with boredom, but not just boredom per se. Sophia wants to matter; she wants to make a difference; she wants to contribute to the world around her. In a recent e-mail to me, Sophia said:
“There are too many active Seniors roaming around the coffee shops and Malls wondering what to do next. Even my friend Walter, at age 97, felt a sense of accomplishment yesterday when he washed all the bed linens and remade the queen bed – this done using his walker, back and forth.”
Sophia epitomizes the bored retiree that I discuss in my article, “Voices of the bored retirees.” We often think that when we retire we’ll be satisfied with being able to golf whenever we want; sleep in as long as we want; work in the garden whenever we like, and read all the books we’ve stacked up, but not had the time, to read. My father was one of those retirees who longed for the opportunity to be on the golf course as often as he wanted. A month post-retirement, he was bored with it all.
Another quote from my friend Sophia: “I really believe that much that we call Alzheimer’s is just a simple lack of interest in remembering what no longer matters. There is definitely a veiled space that occurs now and then when it is either too painful to remember, or not worth it to try. This, in addition to physical pain and boredom, can reach a kind of black hole.”
I know my friend very well, so I know that she doesn’t support that type of Alzheimer’s reasoning, but what she said really resonated with me. Too often we focus too much on what doesn’t matter, and far too little on what can matter greatly in our remaining years. Gerontologist S. Barkin believes that we have a responsibility to actively walk through our retirement (or Baby Boomer) years:
“What do we want to do for the remaining time in our life? We all should be mining our experiences and the wisdom therein to help with our present, and our future paths.”
Most of us, even when we’re enjoying the relaxation we so richly deserve in our retirement, truly strive to create a new purpose for our life. We want a reason to get up in the morning. We strive to contribute to the community around us.
Does the retirement age need to be raised in order for that to occur? Or can we be just as effective, and less bored, by cultivating a lasting purpose after we’ve entered the long sought-after retirement phase of our lives?
O.K. BABY BOOMERS OUT THERE:
- What’s your plan?
- What’s working – or not working – for you?
- What’s your cure for boredom?
Planning for a wedding? FUN!!!!!
Putting together an extended vacation to a tropical paradise? EXHILARATING!
Figuring out how to help mom and dad with their increasing care needs? UNEXPECTED!
A recent National Public Radio (NPR) Story: Preparing for a Future that includes Aging Parents addresses the unexpected, and the unplanned for. Whether because we’re kidding ourselves or we really believe it, we oftentimes can’t imagine our parents as anything but the energetic, robust, independent mom and dad with whom we grew up. And if we don’t live near them, we’re falsely sheltered in our assumption that mom and dad are doing just fine; at least they were the last time we saw them during the Holidays! If we’re honest with ourselves, however, we’ll admit that our infrequent visits with the parents shock us greatly as we notice a bit of feebleness in their manner, because as the above story states, “time does what it does.”
Surprisingly, only 13% of some 4,000 U.S. workers surveyed for the 2011 Aflac WorkForces Report considered that the need for long-term care would affect their household. We love to live blissfully ignorant, don’t we? We have so many of our own stresses and pressures associated with running our family household, we’re just not going to entertain having to be on-point with our parents’ needs as well. Guilty!
I became a long-distance caregiver in the Seattle, Washington area for my father who lived in an all-inclusive facility called a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) in Southern Oregon. The first eight years he lived there were worry free because my father was one of those robust parents who was on the path towards living to a ripe old age. He did live to a ripe old age, dying at the age of 89, but from the age of 84 until his death, Alzheimer’s invaded our family’s peaceful existence, and I found that even as a long-distance caregiver, I was on-point 24/7.
Caveat: my parents had purchased long-term care (LTC) insurance so none of us three offspring were financially responsible for my father’s care. But anyone who has been a caregiver for a loved one knows that care isn’t always equated to monetary expenditure. In my case, the constant need to travel to Southern Oregon to monitor his care and be the designated (self-designated) sibling best equipped to coordinate his care with the facility’s staff, lead to my decision to temporarily leave my career, which was, coincidentally, one in the long-term care housing industry. By the way – the answer was not to move him up to the Seattle area. His financial investment in this CCRC up to that point rendered that an untenable option.
Even though I absolutely relished this opportunity to give back to my father – and I truly did – it was very difficult on my household and me. My health temporarily suffered. Everything I did revolved around being available for my father and hopping on a plane at a moment’s notice. I lived in a five year period of dreading the ringing of my home phone or mobile phone because it most likely meant that something needed tending. And getting home and finding NO voicemails in our phone system was cause for celebration.
But enough about me.
Are you prepared for the eventuality of attending to your parents’ care or are you already on that journey?
Or maybe you are already caring for a spouse with medical or cognitive needs. How are you managing that difficult task?
Let us hear from you. Not talking about it won’t make it go away. It’s time to face the piper and be as prepared as we can for the inevitable.
In the April 2012 issue of the AARP Bulletin, two articles caught my eye. The first article, “To be a Bride Again at 100” (attached is the video link) celebrates the marriage of Dana Jackson, 100 years old, to her groom, 87 year old Bill Stauss. This is a love story between two residents of a nursing home in Bowling Green, Kentucky. This nursing home celebrated their love, and their death-do-us-part vows, in such a lovely way. The management and staff of the nursing home exhibited a wonderful sense of community and support of Dana and Bill. Whether they realized it or not, the staff at the Rosewood Health Care Center helped the newlyweds exercise their rights as long-term care residents.
The second article in the Bulletin’s column, What an Outrage, “Barred from a fine dining restaurant,” shines a spotlight on a Virginia retirement community that not only did not exhibit a sense of community and support, but they quite literally violated the rights of a husband and wife living there. When the husband’s care needs required him to switch to the skilled nursing care portion of the retirement community, while his wife remained in the independent living portion of the community, their meals together were abruptly stopped. The wife could continue to dine in the fine-dining restaurant of the retirement community, but her husband was barred from doing so. He and the other sixteen nursing care and assisted living residents were required to eat in their own separate dining room.
Harbor’s Edge retirement community had a couple non-fatal choking incidents involving three of its nursing care and assisted living residents in 2011 so a new rule was put in place segregating the more inform from the less infirm, even going so far as to ban the more infirm residents from attending events where food was served. Keep in mind, residents in this retirement community make a sizable deposit to live there, to the tune of a half million dollars, PLUS a $5000 monthly fee. I guess money doesn’t buy happiness but it sure should have bought these residents the right to eat where they pleased!
The outcome: the Virginia Department of Health was contacted and soon thereafter, the ban was lifted. In Washington State, laws are in place to protect the residents of long-term care (LTC) facilities so that these residents can experience a dignified quality of life. Vulnerable adult residents are guaranteed specific rights by law. Revised Code of Washington )RCW) 70.129.020 Exercise of Rights, says in a nutshell that a resident has a right to a dignified existence, self-determination, and communication with and access to persons and services inside and outside the facility…The resident has a right to be free of interference, coercion, discrimination and reprisal from the facility in exercising his or her rights. The remainder of RCW 70.129 further details all the civil & resident rights afforded vulnerable adults in the State of Washington. If in your experience you suspect that someone’s long-term care resident rights are being violated, please contact the long-term care ombudsman program in your state by visiting the attached weblink for the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center.
What great, and not so great, experiences have you had relative to long-term care residential living? I would love to hear from you so we can celebrate the good, and expose the bad, for all of our benefit.
Do you seek new direction in your life?
Are you in the process of recreating yourself?
Well I’ve learned that it’s easier to know which direction you should go if you’re already in motion.
The world may have been created in a week, or zillions of weeks; either way, a lot of energy went into that creation and the world-in-process was not a stagnant one.
Trial and error. I constantly look for ways to improve myself and increase my effect upon the community around me. If I’m not contributing to a cause – regardless of how big or small – I figure, “Why bother?” But if I wait around for some sort of change to occur, I’m going about it in the wrong way and believe me, I’ve experienced enough trial and error to write a book on the subject. The trial and error approach works, however, if a person becomes well-informed and doesn’t take financial or personal risks that they can’t afford. After all, sometimes we need to discover what doesn’t work for us in order to find out what does work for us.
Living or playing to your strengths. My Baby Boomer direction was greatly influenced by Marcus Buckingham, one of the world’s authorities on employee productivity. (By the way, his DVD series Trombone Player Wanted, is worth looking into.) He suggests that to make your greatest contribution, it’s best to play to your strengths most of the time. I have taken to heart Mr. Buckingham’s strong caution against veering off ones strengths path. After all, when I’m creating a new me, why would I choose to do the lame-o, same-o with all its inherent dissatisfaction? That’s like doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That sure hasn’t worked for me. In addition to playing to my strengths, I also play to my passions. As a Baby Boomer creating my life’s next chapter, it makes sense to deliberately avoid activities that drag me down and weaken me and run to those activities for which I am most impassioned and inspired.
Find your niche and go for it. I know what I like to do and what I’m good at so I try to consciously remain open to opportunities that directly relate to those strengths. I thoroughly enjoy working with an older population of adults but I know what part of that experience I’m able to do, and what I’m not able to do. For example, I know my limits on “clinical atmosphere” so any involvement with older adults excludes my participation in a nursing home or hospital environment. But throw me in the midst of adults living in assisted living or dementia residential settings and I will make new friends of everyone with whom I come in contact. Add to that my enjoyment and effectiveness as a public speaker, I look for every opportunity in which to use those abilities. As a Certified Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman, I have the privilege of meeting with and advocating for residents in LTC settings. Additionally, I provide resident rights presentations at those facilities and at non-facility venues such as senior centers and city forums. It’s the best of both worlds for me – interaction with my target audience and feeding my passion for public speaking.
Recognizing an open door when you see one. On a recent Oprah’s Next Chapter episode, Oprah Winfrey interviewed Lady Gaga and at one point asked the singer how she came up with new song or album ideas. This is the gist of what Lady Gaga said: she imagines herself in a hallway, there are doors all along the hallway but she knows there’s another door coming up further down the hallway that is more appropriate but it’s not readily visible. Through trial and error she eventually finds the correct door/song inspiration. How does she know that’s the door through which she is to walk? When the door finally opens, the light floods in, she is able to block out all distracting noises, and her wishes and thoughts rise to the surface as a basis for her next song/album creation. I’ve opened some wrong doors in my life as a result of incorrectly thinking that just because a door opens, that means I’m supposed to walk through it. Again, trial and error comes into play and discernment takes a front row seat.
Not every door that opens is going to be the correct one. When I’m in exploratory mode, I have to be very careful not to walk through the first door of opportunity that comes my way – regardless of how enticing. When I make this mistake, I quickly discover that I’ve committed myself to the wrong project and have had to withdraw myself shortly thereafter. I didn’t look before I leaped – not a safe, or advisable practice to be sure. It’s worth me taking the time to weigh my options; write a list of Pros and Cons; ask trusted individuals for their input; and then make an informed decision. If it’s right for me, it’ll wait for me. If this new opportunity allows me to play to my strengths and my passions, everyone benefits and there are few, if any, casualties along the way.
What does the next chapter of your life look like? How are you going about writing that chapter? I’d love to hear from you because I’m pretty sure I have quite a few more chapters of my own to write.
You’ve worked your entire life; you’ve lined up your retirement leisure activities; you’re ready to start the first day of the rest of your life, but instead you start a new job: caregiver to your sibling, spouse, parent, or other family member.
Or perhaps you retired early to take on your caregiver job because there was no way you could do it all: continue your full-time job while moonlighting as your loved one’s caregiver. It doesn’t work or it only works until the caregiver runs out of steam. One way or another, your retirement years sure don’t resemble what you envisioned.
The CNN article, As baby boomers retire, a focus on caregivers, paints a frightening picture but one that is painfully accurate. The highlighted caregiver, Felicia Hudson, said she takes comfort in the following sentiment:
Circumstances do not cause anger, nervousness, worry or depression; it is how we handle situations that allow these adverse moods.
I agree with the above sentiment to a very small degree because let’s face it, the nitty-gritty of a caregiver’s life is filled with anger-inducing depressive circumstances about which I don’t think caregivers should beat themselves up trying to handle with a happy face and a positive attitude. It just doesn’t work that well in the long-term. It’s a well-known fact, and one that is always talked about by the Alzheimer’s Association, that caregivers don’t take care of themselves because they don’t know how, or don’t have the support, to stop trying to do all of their life’s jobs by themselves.
“I’m obligated because my parents took great care of me, and now it’s time for me to take care of them.”
“For better or worse means taking care of my spouse, even though she’s getting the better of me, and I’m getting worse and worse.”
The problem with the above sentiments is that oftentimes the adult child or spouse start to resent the person for whom they are providing care. It’s like going to a job you hate but being held to an unbreakable employment contract; your employer is a loved one with a life-altering or terminal illness; and you’re not getting paid. “Taking care of a loved one in need is reward enough.” No, it’s not.
I’m not bitter, I’m simply realistic. Caregiving is one of the most difficult jobs any of us will hold and we can’t do it all by ourselves. My blog article, Caregiving: The Ultimate Team Sport, encourages each person in a family caregiving situation to create a team of co-caregivers to more effectively get the job done. And please take a look at the other articles found in that same category of Caregiving. I hope you will find encouragement in those articles – some based on my own experience, and some from other caregivers’ shared experiences – especially when a positive attitude and a happy face just isn’t working for you.
insurance, n. A thing providing protection against a possible eventuality. Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th Edition; 2004.
Auto insurance, home or renters insurance, and health insurance – we understand these policies and know that more likely than not the need for the aforementioned insurance policies will rear its ugly head in the near or distant future so we pay the premium for said policies, hoping we won’t need it, but sleeping better at night because we have it.
Why is purchasing long-term care insurance such a difficult step to take for me and my husband?
- Unquestionably, it’s expensive;
- Fearfully, companies who offer this product are going out of business left and right and may leave us holding an empty bag;
- Definitely, it’s a real difficult type of policy to understand; but
- Undeniably, the financial need for it can outweigh the cost of purchasing it.
My husband and I have still not made an effort to look into it further. Here are my two reasons based on family experience – both of which tend to contradict each other:
My father’s long-term care insurance policy. My father had a long-term care insurance policy for which he paid premiums for at least 20 years – no small amount of money to be sure. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 84 and died five years later. His care needs at the retirement facility in which he had lived for 13 years didn’t meet the insurance reimbursement threshold until his final month of life. As with most policies, the insurance holder’s care needs must meet a defined level of care before the insurance company kicks in their assisted living care reimbursement payments. When that happens, the insurance holder no longer pays any more premiums. Twenty years of paying premiums for one month of reimbursement benefit.
My sister-in-law’s long-term care policy. My brother and sister-in-law purchased their long-term care insurance policies when they were in their late fifties. Less than a year later my sister-in-law was diagnosed with early-onset dementia and approximately two years later drew benefits from her policy. A couple of years of paying premiums for what will be years of reimbursement benefit. If that isn’t the good news/bad news of long-term care insurance I don’t know what is!
I have no excuse. I know the devastating costs of long-term care because in my past professional life I worked for a senior housing provider and they represented the Champagne & Chandelier variety of assisted living. But even the generic assisted living providers charge high rental rates and as ones’ care needs increase, so do the care fees. This isn’t avoidance behavior on my part and I’m not squeamish about the subject of health and ones’ eventual death. I’m just finding it hard to take this leap into signing up for insurance, even though it holds the assurance of fending off the potential of total personal financial collapse without it.
How are you Baby Boomers dealing with this subject? If you finally bit the bullet and purchased a policy – how did you finally take that leap of faith?
I AM NOT LOOKING TO BE BOMBARDED BY SELLERS OF INSURANCE AS A RESULT OF THIS BLOG ARTICLE SO PLEASE DON’T GO THERE. But I welcome other constructive feedback for those of us on the brink of making this difficult decision.
This VERY comprehensive article is designed for a person’s elderly parents but guess what…us Baby Boomers need to be aware of these resources as well so I want to pass this article along to you! It helped me – I hope it’s a great resource for you as well.