Being prepared

broken-boneOne of my family members had a bad fall this week. It’s not terminal but there will be a long haul to get back to where they were. Sometimes you don’t get back all your functionality.

There is that ’cause and effect’ thing. I had a simple thumb surgery two years ago but my thumb is still stiff and I don’t have full feeling in it. (It’s great for telling the weather though. It has a 100% accuracy rate.)

I have scar tissue from a previous surgery that occasionally gives me neuralgia. Nothing serious, just different and annoying. (Funny story here – the docs couldn’t figure out what the pain was from. There were MRI, CAT and PET scans. My chiropractor diagnosed it accurately. Go figure.)

This isn’t unusual. You have to work hard to come back from injuries and depending on the age and injury, total recovery isn’t always possible.

This post isn’t about that. It’s about being prepared. It’s about recognizing that your life has stages. It’s not being old per se. It’s about changing lifestyles.

My interests are different. They change. I don’t need to be able to have a party for 60 in my house. (Only did that once! Yikes! Never again! I don’t even like big parties.)

I don’t need a big house. (Great side effect is that it lowers expectations that you have big parties.)

I prefer to not have steps. Whatever I want is always on the wrong floor. (That includes cats!)

Or intricate gardening that requires a lot of attention. Watering a few pots every day isn’t a big deal but when I was younger I had 10 pots by the front door, several at the back door plus a smattering at other places. It was gorgeous but required an hour a day.

I like grab bars. No, they are not just for old people. (For the record, old is at least 20 years older than me no matter what my age is.) When I fractured my kneecap I needed grab bars and banisters (and occasionally people) along with the crutches to steady me. I develop a profound respect for those things.

I keep a card with all my doctors and their phone numbers. There is another for the few medications I take along with the dosage and any helpful comments. Easy to grab in an emergency.

As my mother aged, I couldn’t get her to move. She loved her house (which was on three floors and without a first floor bathroom) and the neighborhood. By the time she recognized the need for downsizing, she was too sick.

She died before I could get her into a place that was simpler. In the meantime family members mowed her lawn, shoveled her snow, stoked her coal stove (yes, she had one of those dusty things), paid her bills and did her grocery shopping. I won’t even go into the portable commode we had to clean.  We would have done some of that anyway but less house care (and worries) would have helped.

The lesson I learned from her was to be prepared. Anticipate. Simplify. Accept new stages of life. Be sure your home is “illness friendly” before something happens.

We are not talking about being inactive. We are talking about letting go of things that require unnecessary work. Focus on activities you truly enjoy.

Are you prepared if you would have a heart attack or stroke today? Or would your family have to scramble to accommodate you?

 

76 thoughts on “Being prepared

  1. My father’s progressive Parkinson’s has definitely influenced my thinking along the lines you’re discussing, Kate. He didn’t show any symptoms until he turned 80 and I think we all thought that my parents were “home free.” The last five years have been very hard for them, but I have learned a lot and also thought a great deal about “being prepared.”

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  2. “Illness friendly” I grew up around really really old relatives and the ones that did best were the ones that planned ahead ( they were such a self relient generation) moved near family and didn’t have stairs. Some of the Eden-type communities allow gardens and have small yards/patio areas for pets and there are places to walk that are nice. Workshops may be a bit more difficult.
    We already downsized to a one story ( which was great when my dad aged and visited) but we are looking, too. We want a view of something from a porch and out the window. I now understand why dad bought the house he did ( although the real reason was room for the giant veggie garden)
    Great post ( hope things are working out – catching up on reading now)

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  3. We live on 10 acres and keep three mowed with multiple flower beds. CH is tired of the work out side and I am tired of the work inside. I love the land we live on but I know it is time to go. We have been looking since 2009 and nothing seemed to fit. We have a two story with a finished basement. We live on the main level of the house. We have found a lot at the golf course 5 minutes from us, I wanted to build there in 2001 but CH was not interested then. Found a wonderful builder two weeks ago with a house plan we love. And the builder understands us. Now to sell this house. Very difficult right now. People are not interested in acreage anymore. Just when we think we are ready to stick the For Sale sign in the yard we chicken out. I know we are ready we just need to buck up and move on. Great post Kate!

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    • I hear you. We are at the same point. My husband is slightly more resistant but we have been “looking” for 2 years. We still have a few things we need. My husband wants to be able to have a workshop so that requires a basement. I’d like a tomato plant or two. Many of the over 55 communities do not allow that. It’s not easy. Wish we would have built a different house 13 years ago but you can’t change that. Our yard is way bigger than I need but I have eliminated many of the flower beds and converted the existing landscaping into easier maintenance. I would think a young couple would love your house. I’ve seen some pictures and it’s lovely. One problem we have is that we have to continue to replace as things wear so there is a stream of money going into it to keep it saleable.

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  4. Good chiropractors often have good ideas.

    I have a 2-story house, but everything I need is on the main floor. When I go up and down the stairs, I’m careful to hold the railing. I watch Obama prance down the stairs on his plane looking so chipper and feel a stab of jealousy. But you’re right, we need to recognize that our lives have stages.

    We had a very hard time getting our mom to move out of the house she’d lived in for thirty years. Admitting she couldn’t handle it anymore was admitting how old she was. Plus, it’s hard for an old person to try something for the very first time. She’d never lived in an apartment in the city. Eventually she got used to it and was proud of herself. After a few years, she could no longer handle the apartment and we moved her into an assisted living. That also took some getting used to.

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  5. I see older people in my neighborhood struggle with stairs and maintenance … it isn’t easy to watch your future before your eyes. We are in our early 50’s and more than able to do things, slower, but we do them. I’m all for downsizing as my husband is building an addition……

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  6. That is why our house is one story. We can stay here a while before having to move. If surgery is needed or something breaks, it is simpler to get around in a one story home, A cousin added a bedroom on the ground floor of her home, When her husband had a motorcycle accident, it came in very handy!

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    • Very smart. In our area additions are very expensive and we would end up with a 5 bedroom house. My husband does not want to move yet but we keep looking. When the right thing comes along, we’ll be ready.

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  7. Loved this, Kate.
    Hubbs and I are in our early 50s – We just downsized to a ranch/one level house! Why? His Mom had M.S. for 30 years and we were very much involved in her car her last 10 years of life – that was our wake up call. We loved our old house but it had stairs everywhere – 4 flights. Our last hurdle is to move the laundry up … and that will come with an addition 🙂 MJ

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      • You are very smart. We built our house and I wanted a ranch but my husband wanted a 2 story. We were in our fifties. We should have built a ranch and we could have stayed for a long time. I remember caring for my mother (and it was only 6 months). Ultimately she fell on the stairs and that was her last trip to the hospital. Although she didn’t hurt anything she died overnight from heart issues. I see friends doing retrofits on houses that weren’t made for elder care. The 50s are a great time (assuming your kids are grown) to downsize. You are energetic enough to make any repairs or changes you want. The older you get the harder that is.

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  8. Great post and good suggestions. I think at one point I had many of the things you suggest. And then… my mid-life crisis got in the way and all those things are lost. I need to recreate them with a new mate. Thanks for the reminder. And, chiropractors are amazing sometimes if you’re lucky to get a good one.

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    • That was my old chiro who has retired. He kept up on things and attended committee meetings at the hospital. He understood scar tissue very well. The guy I go to now is also very smart. I will run a medical issue by him and he has given me some good tips including appropriate docs to go to.

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  9. I have 3 grab bars, one in each bathroom and one beside the back door. I had knee replacement and accumulated a variety of equipment. I still use the bath bench occasionally like when I shave my legs. (They are also very handy for working in the garden.) My house one level, but even a few steps in and out the door can be like a mountain if you are not mobile. The medical equipment was very handy when I fell and hurt my knee and was out of commission for a short time. One good fall teaches you to be very careful thereafter.

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  10. We’re starting to think about retirement, and so look at real estate a lot. 1st floor Master bedrooms and/or full bath on 1st floor is rare. My husband thinks it’s NBD. But this is for us to live in as we AGE! Oy.

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  11. My recent fall opened my eyes quite a bit! Good thing we already had grab bars in our downstairs bathroom (which I used for the first month since I couldn’t get upstairs), but even using the few steps we have both in our front yard and back yard was a challenge for awhile. We have our master bedroom on the second floor, but could move everything down to the first if we need to in the future. So much to anticipate… but it is necessary to have plans in place.

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  12. My husband had a serious stroke when he was 57. I totally agree that we should be prepared. We had several things done before he came home from the hospital. He is 71 now and just got back from a bike ride! That God he is doing well, but you never know.

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  13. We began downsizing for ourselves but found mounds of things to store for three children and two grandchildren. I’m not going to worry one whit about that, because they can jolly well clean out their own stuff when the time comes. In the middle of your post, I almost stood up and cheered! I never, ever thought that less stuff equals less cleaning!!!!! This is the most encouraging thought I’ve encountered today! Thank you for that most cheerful fact.

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    • We had grown childrens’ stuff in our basement but slowly “encouraged” them to take it. They all moved across country so it took some time. One came with a car and took a bunch of everyone’s stuff. Now we just have our own stuff. We did a huge cleanout in the spring but there is still a lot more. Some things, like my husband’s extensive work shop equipment with wood, every size screw and nail there is, etc. will only get done after he is incapacitated. The things you love stay but the collections from 30 years ago are out.

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  14. I agree. The lesson I learned while looking after elderly relatives is: sooner is better than later. I understand that change is difficult, but it’s better to do it while you have all your faculties about you and feel healthy, than later when you don’t know which way is up. [I suspect there is a more elegant way to phrase this, but I don’t know it.]

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  15. Being prepared is half the battle. We have always worked on scenarios for Hubby, and now it’s my turn. Our life is already simplistic. We have no ties, our time is our own, and the only planning in advance we need to do is preparing the boat should we decide to go away for a few days. Our only addition in being prepared is having a Plan B, and we are lucky in having friends who can help us with that.

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  16. Great post and something we don’t think about often. Fortunately (?) my mom at 93 began “downsizing” several years ago by getting rid of almost everything she has in her apartment. She lives with 1 set of dishes, no big pots and pans, hardly anything on the walls and very little furniture. She says she doesn’t want to have to clean.

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  17. Oh, what a thing to think about this morning! Well, I love grab bars and wish my shower had one. Kind of mad it doesn’t as I had wanted one during the remodel and I was swayed by the designer. I will have problems from my surgeries, so I understand. Yesterday my 78 year old aunt had back surgery and will have to be in a brace for 4-6 months. I’m worried how my uncle who is 87 will handle things.
    I have a mess here as far as your last question goes. It’s because Kana and Sloopy Anne chase after Tiger. I am the only one who can handle this. So that’s a problem. Kana is getting much better, but it’s still an issue. And SA is even more of an issue.
    As far as stairs go, I’ve lived with a hospital bed in the family room before, so I know that works.

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    • You can always install grab bars. We did it after our shower redo. If I was to redo a bath, I’d do the higher toilet with grab bars too. You don’t have to be old to need them. The one in the shower helps me balance when I’m shaving my legs. Can’t help you with the cats. They are cats after all.

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  18. I think I am prepared but who knows. I don’t have family but do have a family of friends that I know would (and do) what they can when I need help. I hope I die like my mother did…just go to bed one night and never wake up. Getting old is not for the weak or wimpy.

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    • Yes, there’s a lot of activity going on like stair glides and furniture movement. Some things are very inconvenient but they are making adjustments. Some things like that hospital bed many need cannot be prepared ahead of time. We do the best we can.

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  19. Good words Kate, be prepared to let go, to simplify – even to enjoy our lives – but especially as time passes, for our family’s sake. We’re going through all of the above with my in-laws. several years ago, we down-sized our home and I love it! less time to clean and you’re absolutely correct, less indoor entertaining!
    I wish you all a healthy recovery!

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  20. How I wish more people were as prepared as you are, Kate! I’ve got more and more friends coping with aging parents with dementia. One spent five years trying to get her MIL closer, downsized, and out from behind the wheel of a car (MIL drove the wrong way on a freeway twice). Her MIL resisted, got ill, broke her arm, and now has Alzheimers. My friend now has a special needs kid and a MIL hours away to manage, plus all the finances and insurance.

    It’s a nightmare.

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