None of us want to be a burden, of course. Even so, we need to realize that we will lose discernment as we age.  My dad hired and fired his entire career, but he lost his ability to read people in his late 70’s. Sadly, there are those who prey on the elderly. You do not want to live in fear, so what can you do?

(1) Humble yourself and begin running important decisions by trustworthy people—not your beautician, caregiver, or someone you just met. Wisdom in a multitude of counselors.

(2) Protect yourself.  First, get practical and reduce your risk. Keep important papers in a locked safe. Freeze your credit. Buy a shredder. Eliminate unneeded credit cards. Lock your doors. When you start receiving in-home health care, seriously consider transferring your financial records elsewhere—to your executor/personal representative. Activate that power of attorney relationship.

(3) Identify trustworthy people in your life—before you have lost your discernment. Carefully, choose your attorney, your doctor, your financial advisor, your executor/personal representative, your medical representative, your caregivers and support services.  They may be family, long-time friends, and/or professionals. It is okay NOT to use family especially if they have a drug problem, live in a distant state, or have an unpleasant/selfish spouse, or are lovely people who can’t balance a checkbook. Be safe. There are professional guardians/conservators, and banks have trust departments.

(4) Form a support team to avoid burdening any one person. The person who can’t balance a checkbook may be the perfect person to take you to doctor appointments and be your medical representative. Avoid unnecessary crisis and conflict by seeking and receiving wise counsel.  Have meetings once a year with your team as you navigate the aging process. Ask if they feel safe driving with you now? Come up with a plan for releasing the car keys. Share, and listen.

(5) Develop a game plan for your 4th quarter. You will need expertise and multiple viewpoints to do this well. Have your medical rep meet your doctor. Equip your team with the legal docs (Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney) they need to act on your behalf. Federal agencies like Social Security and VA do not recognize these docs. They have their own.

(6) Anticipate the next transition. Aging, like parenting, is just one transition after another. One wife developed Parkinson’s Disease. They had a lovely home they had built and enjoyed for decades. Neither wanted to move–yet. They discussed this numerous times in family meetings as their children were concerned. With help, they stayed where they were, but they did not ignore the next transition. They visited numerous facilities and picked where they would go, when they did move. Once she fell, everyone knew it was time. The family packed them up and moved them according to the parental plan. A team effort implemented the parental plan. Adult children were heard, and parents were honored.


(7) Dare to discuss death and dying.  Of course, there are many choices we do not get to make. Some are ours, however, if we will be bold. If we actually consider our options and resources, we may be able to impact others meaningfully and be blessed ourselves much more than if we ignore our mortality.

  • My mother (congestive heart failure) discussed her death with my sister-in-law and her doctor. She did not want to die alone; she wanted to be kept comfortable and have someone holding her hand. This was a hard moment, but stating her wishes so clearly was a beautiful gift to us, her family. We could do what she wanted. This was a huge comfort to us. We could not stop death, but we were there and held her hand.
  • Another family did not have this discussion. The mom received a terminal Dx, so adult kids came up with a plan, obtained excellent medical care, provided transportation, live-in care . . . all that was needed to fight the cancer EXCEPT no one asked Mom what she wanted. She too would have been content to visit with her children and be kept comfortable. Consider your preferences for your last days. Discuss them thoughtfully before emotions run high, so your loved ones may adjust.


 (8) Use your power to bless and/or share your heritage.

  • One lady was struck with a terminal disease while her daughter was still in high school. Thinking ahead, she and her daughter identified all the events/rites of passage for which the mom, would not be there—shopping for a prom dress, graduation, decorating her dorm room at college, planning her wedding, etc. They invited the mother’s friends and assigned those events according to the friend’s gifting and relationship to the daughter. This lovely mother gave her friends meaningful tasks and blessed her daughter with womanly influence— because she dared to face her own death.
  • One gentleman scanned all the family photos in his possession and arranged them chronologically on a DVD with music appropriate to the decade. Inscriptions noting dates, places, and names were added.  It was a huge project, but easily distributed to all his children. What a family legacy!
  • A woman I know reads her Bible cover to cover each year, and each year she buys a new one. When she dies, each grandchild will inherit one of her Bibles-underlined and full of notes and prayers. What a spiritual heritage!
  • Another huge gift is to write your story, the lessons you have learned, the insights you have gained. Allan Wilson is in the process of doing that—giving the gift of perspective. Future generations will know him in the broader context of his life—beyond Dad or Grandpa.
  • I am the historian in my family. I have not yet written my story, like Allan, but I wrote the family history of my mother’s family. I found few written stories, but I wrote down the ones I had heard. Before my mother died, I read my version to her. She felt honored, and made several corrections!
  • Heritage of Hope recommends that you write a letter to each of your loved ones . . . you know them in ways no one else does. How might you affirm them and remind them of special memories they gave you etc.? You may give them a personal blessing.