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Why Successful Aging is a Team Sport

Reflections on 2019

Reflections on 2019

As owner of a home care agency, I welcome the opportunity for reflection. We have too little time for it as we attempt to keep up and ahead of issues we tackle every day, especially those facing the elders for whom we care. But reflection is good and always time well spent.

This year I saw the conflation of major thoughts that I think are worth noting; particularly as they promise to grow more powerfully in 2020. 

 “Elderhood” is Changing The Conversation about Age

 Jeanette Leardi is a social gerontologist transforming the language of ageism. In workshops like “What’s Age Got to Do with It?” she is burning myths, stereotypes and perceptions about getting and being old. Across the country speaking to professionals and motivating seniors in assisted livings, senior centers and other venues, she is rocking the conversation about age with new metaphors, images and archetypes. Age is a new asset, not a deficit. She wants everyone shouting it from the rooftops.

Dr. Bill Thomas, the author of “What are Old People For? How elders will Save the World” has been rallying for “elderhood” for a decade. He bemoans the dearth of qualified geriatricians who understand this population (roughly 6000 to serve the fastest growing segment in today’s society) while citing the fact there are more nursing homes than Starbucks in the country.  In a TEDx Talk he lobbies hard for “deflating adulthood to redesign our life cycle to embrace elderhood as the cornerstone of humanity”. His bigger point is this: society needs elders, and after adulthood, elderhood can be very real, rich and meaningful.

Power & Purpose of a Plan

Power & Purpose of a Plan

While these energetic conversations are going on among social scientists, they are also making this case, whether they know it or not: if we are to experience elderhood successfully, we need each other AND, we need a plan. 

Issues for Elders Far More Complex than Ever
As a corporate member of ALCA (Aging Life Care Association), my team is fortunate to participate on the organization’s active listserv. At the intersection of hundreds of emails a day from Life Care Advocates (formerly referred to as Geriatric Care Managers) around the country and beyond, we are given insights into the lives and shifting concerns of seniors we will never have the opportunity to actually meet.

Through this robust communications network we get an up-close view of challenges, struggles and diversity of issues they face in getting support, care, advice and service. By the discussion boards and requests from across the country for expertise, we know that even the most seasoned professionals have a hard time staying current on providers, the latest personal response technologies, and how services are covered as free or partially paid benefits.

Even in this incredibly well organized “village” of professionals it is easy to see how information can become quickly outdated or inaccurate based on state regulations.

The fact is we are in a world of information overload and to expect one professional to know and orchestrate it all is unrealistic and in fact, dangerous. 

To Age Successfully We Need Each Other

To Age Successfully We Need Each Other

We not only need each other and multiple resources, we need a plan.

I like to think of it in baskets of activity that we can get smart about, control and manage. We also need each other to participate, which is what I preach as a “Circle of Care”. Because regardless of how good and smart we think we are, we need others around us to harness the power of our collective intelligence. 
An Ounce of Prevention and Advance Work
If elderhood is to be real, rich and meaningful, it requires a plan. In a macro sense it is critical to determine what matters and what is important; distinguishing the difference between what you need and what you want. This is when you want to get a journal and think through the big and little things you care about. Tips for Planning Your Journey of Aging may provide useful guidelines for your journal and, your journey!

Secondly, it is essential to assign who in your Circle makes what decisions, when, and what criteria surrounds all of that. This is a family affair!

Other baskets of activity in your advance work include:

Legal | Financial Issues: These are intertwined as well as separate. 1) Intertwined are the structure of the estate, roles and responsibilities and discussions about financial capabilities.

Insurance: Understanding and clarity around what you have, and researching what is available.

Care: The issues here are practical, personal, and will shift over time. 1) Start by getting an honest needs assessment 2) Decide responsibilities regarding care “management” over time 3) Evaluate and research prospective providers for meeting current and anticipated care needs 4) Research personal support technology for in and out-of-home use.

Keeping Current: The Maintenance Plan

Keeping Current: The Maintenance Plan

Developing the initial “Plan” may seem daunting, but once achieved you will be rewarded by feeling in control. Your next challenge is keeping it current. Providers may change and team members in your “Circle of Care” may shift roles and responsibilities.

A maintenance strategy is essential, especially given how our healthcare system, medical provider networks and partners, continue to evolve and morph. Key considerations include:

1) Review the overall Plan: have regulations or other things changed in the past year that affect what you have put in place?

2) Roles and responsibilities: is the team still the team or are other players required?

3) Personal status: what if anything has changed health-wise, financially, legally? 

Our Mandate for the New Moniker

Our Mandate for the New Moniker

 In referencing the work of both Jeanette Leardi and trailblazer Bill Thomas it seems fitting  we begin the new year to include the concept of “elderhood” and all the dignity, grace, and meaning it carries.

If we do, we must also be responsible for quarterbacking the success of this new moniker. This is where I put on my home care agency hat and suggest this will take both a great team, and a solid plan.  

When Reflecting Ahead

Consider ways in which companies like mine can help guide your journey of aging. To learn more, please visit our website or call us: 617.500.6999

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