Peas

A little bit of planning goes a long way. Consider Jim’s story:

Jim was a WW II veteran who spent his career after the war as a plumber. He worked hard, raised a family and had an intense passion for the Chicago Cubs baseball team although he lived six hundred miles from Chicago. One of his buddies in the South Pacific during the war was from Chicago and that’s where his obsession with the Cubbies came from.

Jim’s family attributed his increasing forgetfulness to his age. They only became truly concerned when he went for a walk one winter evening in a light jacket and a policeman brought him home after spotting him on the side of the road the next town over.

When the family gathered for Christmas that year, they all sat down with Jim and had a frank discussion about his memory loss. It was early enough in his cognitive decline that he could be included in the conversation. Jim wanted to remain in his home, he did not want certain interventions to prolong his life, and he agreed to technological aids such as GPS monitoring to ensure that he and his wife remained safe. During the conversation, which was tearful at times, Jim stressed that his independence, dignity and the quality of life of his family were the most important things to him.

Once the family knew what Jim wanted as he faced the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, they made some legal and financial arraignments. His daughter who was a nurse was made his healthcare power of attorney and his son was responsible for managing his budget which would include an in-home aid and a few days per week at an Adult Day Service.

When Jim’s family gathered two Christmases later, he didn’t remember their names but they all chuckled that he had not lost his fondness for eggnog. While there were sad times and tough times during his decline, everyone in Jim’s family was happy that they had  sat down and took the time to plan his final years while Jim could still communicate his wishes.

As the holidays approach, consider taking the time to do a bit of planning while the family is gathered. Having a conversation won’t ensure that everyone in the family gets along like “peas in a pod”, but open communication always helps in planning for care in old age.

My best,

Thomas


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