This title has been the most popular for people coming to Sunshiners.ca, and I think the list of resources I posted might have disappointed some. So here are a couple of answers to this provocative question.
Expect the unexpected. People get more different from one another, and more different from “normal” as they get older. To the point where “normal” pretty well disappears. But certain things are predictable in a general way. First, you’re going to need help. Help organizing, and eventually help doing some pretty basic things like getting dressed. Whether you plan for that or not may determine what happens to you in unexpected situations (like a fall).
On the flip-side of that need for help, your independence is terribly important. Protect it! Don’t let anybody put you in a dependent situation unnecessarily.
Expect that your response to usual treatments in health care (like an operation, a medicine, or even investigations) will be unpredictable. Hoped-for good things may not happen, and unimagined bad things may happen. I’m definitely NOT saying don’t try for treatment, but I am saying watch carefully for what happens.
You can expect your friends and family to worry about you, but remember when they worry about your problems, they are also worrying about themselves. So sit them down, tell them what you want and need, and be honest with one another about what’s expected and what’s available. That kind of conversation can be difficult, but the road ahead requires it.
And now for the commercial: there’s a lot more on this topic in “A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly”, my book on the subject. Or contact me directly.
In some ways the most difficult of the ‘unexpected’ aspects is the length of time a Sunshiner may have to live. Many will decline very slowly.
How can a Sunshiner decide when or if to downsize?
How can a caregiver allocate her time between her beloved dependent family members and her own sanity breaks–when it may be either weeks or years before her task is over?
Both have to learn to live with dwindling control, yet not give up their identity.