Aging well and finishing strong

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This pandemic has been difficult for everyone. Throughout the past year and a half, we have been collectively grieving for lost loved ones as well as loss of independence, freedom, and sense of structure and predictability. For many of us — especially older adults who live alone or in facilities — this has brought loneliness, anxiety and deep feelings of isolation. While spending time at home with empty calendars we have all had a chance to look deeper at our lives and see how we have been living. We have examined how much time we are devoting to those we love and the things we love. So, what are we doing today, to live our best, most authentic and meaningful lives?

As we age, our needs change. We may need help physically or cognitively as we navigate health issues and the activities of daily living. It’s important to be proactive — becoming aware of available services can help you prevent decline and plan for the future. You can put tools and strategies into place to strengthen your mental, physical, and emotional health to age well. When you or a loved one needs help aging with dignity, there is assistance and resources in the community.

Sometimes people shy away from talking about their final days and wishes, but it’s always beneficial to start the process sooner than later.

When Norma continued to decline cognitively as Alzheimer’s took over her world, activities of daily living, meal preparation, transportation, mental stimulation and respite for her husband Robbie became a challenge. When Norma became combative and “wanted to go home,” it took extra planning and attention. The family was conflicted, thinking it might be getting too much for Robbie but because he and Norma had clearly defined their goals and how they wanted their final days to look, there was no guessing, arguments or unneeded stress.

A helpful process is to prepare an Aging with Dignity Binder, as one family shared. “Putting together the binder turned out to be a truly invaluable tool for me and my mother. We gathered all our important documents. We were surprised how long it took to figure out where everything was kept. There were also many things we learned through this process that we would not have thought to include. We dubbed our very large binder The Book! I am so grateful that we put in the time and effort into it when we did. Shortly after the binder was completed, my father passed away. In the days and weeks that followed, as we navigated all the many practical things that need to be accomplished when a loved one passes away, we must have said a dozen times, thank goodness for The Book! We had everything we needed at our fingertips. I cannot imagine the amount of stress it would have added if we had waited to gather everything we needed until that moment. What a huge help it was to have everything in one place.”

Living a true, full, and authentic life is something we all strive for. Taking the time now to be proactive can help you determine what you value most, live life to the fullest, and have peace of mind.

Barb Lotze is Director of Business Development at Visiting Angels. To learn more contact blotze@visitingangels.com, or call 720-231-6248 (cell) or 720-981-0804 (office).

This column is hosted by the Seniors’ Council of Douglas County. Please join us for our next virtual online presentation July 1 at 10 a.m. Barb Lotze will be our presenter and provide an overview on preparing loved ones about end-of-life wishes and aging with dignity. For more information, please visit www.MyDougCoSeniorLife.com, email DCSeniorLife@douglas.co.us or call 303-663-7681.

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