Written by Sascha Peterson*
I consider myself lucky to have a fantastic relationship with my Mum. We talk all the time, sometimes several times a day. We’ll call each other about trivial, day-to-day things, just to check in, or to make plans for catching up. We also talk about the big stuff. We use each other as a sounding board for any significant decisions, events or problems.
But, you know what’s really crazy? Despite talking with her so often about so many things, there’s one topic I haven’t been able to talk to her about. Her future.
My Mum is approaching her mid-70’s and lives alone in her own home. She’s active, reasonably healthy and always extremely busy with friends and a stack of interests. But, inevitably, there will come a day when living alone becomes more challenging for her. She knows this. I know this. And yet, neither of us has ever spoken about it.
I am married, raising two children and running my own business. I’m an only child and our family network is very small. I’m fully aware that the responsibility of caring for my Mum as she gets older will fall solely to me. There’s simply no one else to share this responsibility with. I know this. She knows this. And yet, neither of us has ever spoken about it.
I don’t know what her vision for this phase of her life is. I don’t know if she has made her own plans without sharing them with me, or if she just assumes that I’ll be able to cope.
For two people who talk so often and are so organised in every other aspect of our lives, it doesn’t make sense that we haven’t spoken about this major and inevitable next life phase.
But we’re not alone.
A US online study found some worrying statistics:
1. 45% say their parents have made no plans for when they can no longer live independently
2. 26% have no clue what plans their parents have for later life
Another US poll of adults aged 40 or older found that:
1. About half of older Americans think a family member or close friend will need living assistance within the next five years
2. 7 out of 10 of those respondents said they didn’t feel prepared to provide care, financially or otherwise
Why are we so afraid of talking about it?
I want my Mum to grow old well. I’m not wishing the years away, but I really want her to spend her elderly years as happy and fulfilled as she can possibly be. And that’s going to take some planning.
What I don’t want is for an unforeseen crisis (like an illness or accident) to dictate what happens next. My Mum deserves to have control over how she ages, and she needs my help to plan for it.
So this weekend, I’m making time to sit down with her and start the conversation we’ve been avoiding. I’m going to begin by asking what aging well means to her and then I’m going to start planning to put things in place for when she needs a bit of help down the track.
Thankfully, I know that Five Good Friends is there to make things easier, more personal and more tailored to what Mum may need. It might just be driving her to appointments and activities with a little bit of cleaning help, or it might develop into assistance with showering and dressing. The most important thing is that Five Good Friends can help her age the way she wants to.
If you need help starting the conversation with your parents, or want to find out what options are available, call one of our Care Advisors on 1300 787 581.
*Name has been changed for anonymity.