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Ruminations on the Golden Rule

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Most of us have heard some version of the golden rule, “so whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” This code of conduct, while Biblically based, is also reflected in the texts of other world religions such as Judaism and Islam. It is a simple principle; if we love ourselves, then we have an internal guide as to how we should behave toward others.

It’s probably a good thing that the rule doesn’t lay out the criteria for when it is appropriate to treat people as we would like to be treated because some of us can act in ways that make it difficult for others to respect or love us. In spite of our shortcomings, we cling to the expectation that others deal with us with fairness, and yet we somehow fail to extend the same grace to others.

Take for instance our government’s current policy of separating children from parents who have been caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally. For those of us who are parents, no matter where we stand on the immigration debate, there’s empathy to be felt for the trauma that those children must experience as they are taken away from the only security they know. Yet one-third of Americans polled felt the policy to be just and fair, and our government has cited Biblical support for its actions.

Another example is the recent Supreme Court decision that upheld a baker’s right to deny service to a gay couple based on his religious belief. While less traumatic than separating children from their parents, it still raises issues of equity and fairness.
In each of these examples, is the golden rule guiding these policies and decisions?

According to Roger Severino, the top civil rights official at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “religious freedom is a primary freedom, that it is a civil right that deserves enforcement and respect.” To this end, HHS has created the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom to protect doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who refuse to treat certain people because of moral or religious objections.

It doesn’t require much imagination to foresee how this policy might play out in our increasingly polarized society. For older adults who are members of the LGBT community, the possibility that they could be denied service based on religious freedom makes their later years more precarious. Unlike the general population of senior citizens, LGBT older people are less likely to have children or family to lean on during a crisis. It is vital that they have the same access to services, businesses, and programs that everyone else has. So, how might those of us who are Christian and follow a certain religious code reconcile our beliefs and actions when we encounter situations that violate that code?

The book of Matthew provides an answer. “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” That’s what Jesus would do.

Vincent Tilford, Executive Director
Hannan Center

If We’re All Aging Then Age-Friendly is For All of Us

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By, Misha Stallworth, Director of Arts and Culture

When you look in the mirror, when you think of yourself, how do you identify? How does the list of all the things that you are formulate? Are you a natural-haired woman? A queer man? An athlete?

I see myself as Black, a woman, and a professional (among other things). Those identities first come to mind for me and in that order. It’s normal for all of us to experience our identities in a prioritized way; the list can shift sometimes depending on where we are or who we’re around, but it’s always there. For example, when you’re caring for a parent, you may see yourself as a daughter first. When you go out to dinner with your spouse you may see yourself as a husband first. When you show up for art class, you’re an artist first. This is all common and normal. What is also normal is that we rarely see ourselves as our age first. Looking in the mirror you see all the other things you are before your number of years. And yet the outside world is very pre-occupied with age as a point of reference. I’m asked how old I am constantly and there are always conversations that include someone’s age relative to their lives or behaviors, “she’s only 50,” they say about a woman with arthritis. “He’s way too old to be in the club,” they say about a man who goes dancing and so on.

There is dissonance between the way the world prioritizes our identities and the way we do so for ourselves. The interesting thing about the world’s perspective is it ignores that age determines very little about our lives—while there are many inevitable changes that come with aging, most of the things we associate with it, like declining health and mobility, are moving targets across the life span. However, what is solid, consistent, and true for all of us (should we be so lucky) is that we’re aging regardless of where our age is prioritized on our identity list or what the world sees.

This is what makes the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Age-Friendly Communities and Cities initiative so essential. It demands that we look at all the intersections of needs across the lifespan and life experience. It is about, “creating barrier-free and affordable housing, accessible public spaces, and transportation [that] enable people to stay independent and participate in community life.” ALL people. A sidewalk should be an accessible public space. If it is well maintained—without cracks and tree roots—it is accessible for the early morning runner, for the person with a stroller, for the toddler learning to walk, and for the person in the wheelchair.

We must demand that people look at the development across Detroit with an age-friendly lens; a lens that asks the question “is this accessible for as many people as possible as they (and we) age?” It is a marker of our society that as we age we are pushed to the fringes assumed to only be interested in McDonald’s coffee and the 11 o’clock news. Committing to being age-friendly is a commitment to keep all people enfolded in the community and its development process. Development that is driven by only a few groups is not lasting or accessible, yet often it takes little to make it such. It doesn’t require funding set aside for “senior projects,” because our needs are not determined by age but by the diverse changes our bodies and lives experience as time goes on. Doorways can be built wider in new homes for wheelchairs and improved sight lines for families with young children (widening a doorway after the fact can cost up to $3,000); benches at public parks can be built at just the right height and without that slant backward for people who need assistance standing and those of us who are, let’s say, vertically challenged. A person over 60 could fit in any one of the categories I just listed without fitting in others. Wearing the age-friendly lens while we drive and participate in change across the city ensures that we all stay more connected, especially those often pushed to the fringes. It is an inclusive approach that benefits the broader community and common good.

Talk to your friends, your family, and your neighbors about how they see themselves and what kind of built environment would best suit them. Take note of the areas that are similar for people who are 17 and 70. Share that information with others—from your colleagues to your council(wo)man—and as you move through your neighborhood notice the areas that could change for the better. Congratulations, you are now participating in building an age-friendly community.

Some Thoughts On Older Americans Month

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May is Older Americans Month, a time to recognize the impact that seniors have had on our lives. It is also a time to ponder how future generations might judge how we have cared for those who used to care for us.

In the early 2010s, property investors in Detroit began cashing in on the improving real estate market. They began redeveloping their properties to serve a younger, more affluent clientele as policymakers devised opportunities to attract this demographic. Perhaps underscoring this effort is an infamous advertisement that appeared on a building in downtown Detroit with the caption, “See Detroit Like We Do,” which featured young, white people. The company apologized for the ad, recognizing the message’s tone deafness in a city that is over 80% African-American. But what neither the company nor the outcry acknowledged is that in addition to the message’s bias against people of color, there was also an unconscious preference for younger people over seniors.

There are more than 2,000 older adults who live in senior apartment buildings in Midtown and downtown Detroit. Many of them wonder whether they will be forced to move as properties convert to market rate condominiums and apartments. Some of these conversions reserve a percentage of the units, usually 20% or less, for low income; however, the price points are still considerably higher than what seniors previously paid. Unable to afford the new rents, they are forced to relocate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified that displacement can result in negative health consequences for vulnerable populations like senior citizens. A significant risk is social isolationism, which has been associated with dementia, increased risk for hospital readmission, and higher mortality. Recent research has shown that social isolation may be as damaging to one’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a proposal that would increase rent payments on the nation’s poorest. If legislation passes, the impact on seniors won’t be immediate, but six years after the law is in effect, the maximum rents on older adults living in subsidized housing will rise as well, which might mean unplanned relocations and substandard living conditions.

These proposed changes come at a time when the U.S. economy is doing better. There’s low unemployment. Several companies are reporting record profits. In fact, our country is doing so well that we gave corporations massive tax cuts under the premise that companies will re-invest in factories and equipment, keeping our economy humming for a long time.

On the other hand, the left has argued that today’s tax cuts will create massive deficits that will have our economy singing out of tune in the years to come. There are some on the right who have already put forth proposals to cut Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, the safety net programs for older adults.

In conjunction with Older Americans Month, we shouldn’t just recognize our older citizens, but begin a movement that ensures that seniors are valued in our nation year-round. After all, it has been their sweat and hard work that has made our communities and country strong.

We need to think about what future generations might see as they look back on us. Will they see that we came together with a purpose to maintain and safeguard the programs and supports that older adults have earned, or will they be horrified that we set the people who once cared for us out on metaphorical ice floes? In the end, to paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, they will judge us on how we treated the most vulnerable among us.

Ellen Kayrod Fisher

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It is with heavy hearts and immense gratitude that Hannan Center shares the passing of Ellen Kayrod Fisher who was a member of the Hannan team for more than forty years.

Joining the organization as a social worker, Ellen was eventually promoted to executive director. Per her account, she did not know about the promotion until she was asked to attend a Board of Trustees meeting. At that time, the Board met in the Detroit Club, which barred women. Ellen had to enter by taking an elevator in the adjoining Free Press building and sneaking through the back door. That clandestine meeting was the beginning of her service as the executive director which lasted for three decades.

Ellen led Hannan successfully through two significant changes. The first was the building of Hannan House, which transitioned the organization from serving low-income older people in their own homes to serving seniors in a residential setting. Many years after Hannan House was built, some subsidized, low-income senior apartment buildings were constructed in the immediate area. These buildings provided apartments that were much more attractive to independent older adults than the single rooms with congregate dining that Hannan House provided. Ellen realized that Hannan could not compete with these new options and that the organization should look at alternative ways that the building and its resources could be used to serve seniors in need. After a strategic planning process that included a needs assessment by the Wayne State University Institute of Gerontology and an advisory committee of senior service providers, Hannan Foundation decided to convert its building from a residence into a center where Hannan would provide services and programs to older adults living in the community. Today, twenty five years after that transition, Hannan continues to meet the changing needs of metro Detroit area seniors, and promote creative and purposeful activity that enriches their lives.

After retiring, Ellen, who had been a widow for some years, married a long-time friend, Blake Fisher, who was also a widower. They lived in Newaygo, Michigan until his death, upon which she returned to the Detroit area.

Former executive director, Tim Wintermute, shared the following sentiments, “Ellen was a champion for low-income older adults and a true “servant leader” who believed strongly in Hannan’s mission. She was a friendly, gracious and compassionate person, always quick with a smile, a positive comment, and encouragement. Her ability to listen and put people at ease was remarkable. Ellen was also quite humble and quick to credit others and downplay her own contributions. In fact, many people had no idea that she was the person chiefly responsible for calmly and competently steering Hannan through these dramatic and difficult changes. In fact, she actually didn’t want any fuss when she retired and was completely surprised when the art gallery was named in her honor.”

I had the opportunity to meet Ellen on a couple of occasions, and each time she would share her love for the organization and its mission. We appreciate her contributions to our work and the field of aging, and for that, her memory will always have a place here at Hannan.

Sincerely,

Vincent Tilford
Executive Director

After-work Caregiving Means Working a Second Shift

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When an older loved one needs care, those who step in may find themselves balancing the demands of full-time jobs with the demands of providing that care. Whether it’s calling for a doctor’s appointment, stocking the fridge or paying the bills, being there for a person in need means adding work hours to an already busy day.

That’s why the Hannan Foundation created the Next Shift program – to assist full time employees who are also providing unpaid care to a family member, neighbor or friend. This free, confidential service helps full-time, employed caregivers secure support and resources for both their loved ones and themselves. But first, the person who is pitching in will need to recognize that providing such loving support defines them as a caregiver.

“Few people identify themselves as a caregiver. Many spouses, sons or daughters, siblings, or friends see what they do for loved ones as simply the right thing to do,” says Vincent Tilford, Hannan’s executive director. “Failing to reach out for help can add additional stress and greatly impact the health and well-being of the caregiver and of the care-recipient.”

In fact, research finds that caregivers who do not access supportive services are more likely to experience depression, difficulty sleeping, and fatigue – as well as challenges balancing work and home life with these added responsibilities.

Next Shift Services Include:

  • Navigating Medicaid/Medicare
  • Connecting to community resources such as food, transportation and healthcare
  • Assistance with long-term care planning
  • Legal Services/Family mediation
  • Educational Workshops/Support Groups
  • Consultations with licensed master social workers to develop personalized care plans

Next Shift program partners include the Alzheimer’s Association-Greater Michigan Chapter, Elder Law & Advocacy Center, and the Wayne State University Institute of Gerontology. The program is funded by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.

To learn more about this free service or to see if you qualify as a caregiver, call a Next Shift representative at: 313-833-1210, or email Stacey Molinaro at smolinaro@hannan.org. You can also visit the Next Shift website at: nextshiftdetroit.com

LGBTQ Ally and Aging Advocate

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You may ask just how a woman who identifies as straight, is married to a man, and has four children and five grandchildren becomes an advocate for the LGBTQ community. She says she got her heart for the gay and transsexual communities from her mother’s example of openness and support.

“When my cousin began transitioning from male to female, and sat my mother and me down to announce the news, my mom said, ‘I love you. I want you to be happy, whatever that is.’ That set a good example for me,” says Pat Baldwin, director of the Beyond U community of shared learning at the Hannan Center, as well as of the center’s Volunteer Services.

The Hannan Center operates programs to enhance the quality of life for Detroit’s seniors. Over the course of her 17 years spent working in aging services, hearing individual needs and observing gaps in services, Baldwin says she identified unmet needs for those in the LGBTQ community as they aged. In 2013 she founded the Detroit Elders Project which holds monthly presentations at Hannan Center on topics that affect LGBTQ elders.

“In many senior centers and places where seniors go for services there was no mention of the LGBTQ elder,” Baldwin says. “I wanted to change that.”

Baldwin says that while many young LGBTQ people are embraced and sup- ported by friends and family, LGBTQ elders grew up in a time when they may have lacked resources, advocates, employment rights and a sense of safety caused by reprisals against those who did come out.

The advocate says senior centers ignore LGBTQ elders but other settings can present more troubling treatment. In the long-term care system, a national survey by the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging found, older adults were frequently mistreated by care-center staff, including cases of verbal and physical harassment, as well as refusal of basic services.

Working with legal advocates, Baldwin says, she also learned that there weren’t legal protections for LGBTQ elders.

For example, Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits sex discrimination, among a list of categories of protected rights. But the law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. These advocates are awaiting the outcome of their recent testimony before the Michigan Civil Rights Commission as it considers issuing an interpretive statement to include LGBTQ protections in its list of enumerated rights. They also presented the Commissioners with a letter signed by 30 legal experts reiterating the importance of clarifying the law.

“This clarification is so necessary,” Baldwin says, citing a transgen- der person whose appointed legal guardian did not support their gender identity. The guardian withheld vitally needed hormones and other gender-affirming medical care, putting the transperson’s health and well-being at risk.

Baldwin is a board member of SAGE Metro-Detroit, the nation’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ elders. She says that, SAGE focuses on securing inclusive protections for the LGBTQ community and identifying welcoming housing, medical and social services, and business services.”

To learn more about LGBTQ ser- vices offered by the Hannan Cen- ter or by SAGE-Metro Detroit, visit or call: hannan.org 313.833-1300; or sagemetrodetroit.org 734.681.0854.

IS NOW A GOOD TIME?

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“Influenza Outbreak – Worst in 15 years!”  

“Children under Five and Senior Citizens are at Risk.”

Almost daily, news reports have blared scary headlines. They have us thinking, oh no you didn’t when a co-worker sneezes without covering her mouth and holding our breath as we dart from the room.

Although I no longer have toddlers in my house, I am nonetheless hyper-vigilant about bringing germs home. My mom who recently turned 90 years old does live with me, and the last thing I want to do is to infect her with this year’s bug. Following the Center for Disease Control recommendation, everyone in my family has received a flu shot, but like many older adults who look askance at the warnings, my mom didn’t bother with the vaccine.

After returning home from work recently, my older son stopped me at the door. “Dad,” he said, “Grandmother’s sick.” My concern rising, I dropped my backpack and headed to my mom’s room. She was sitting up, watching television with red, watery eyes.

“Hi, Mom. How are you feeling?” I asked in a neutral tone. While there are some older adults who have lost responsibility for their lives because they aren’t able to make health decisions or abdicated their authority because they believe that their adult children know what’s best, my mom isn’t one of them. She guards her independence with defensive, short statements followed by an impervious silence that dares anyone to challenge her wishes.

“I’m fine,” she said in a hoarse whisper, but still with enough edge to let me know to leave her alone. I pressed on.

“You don’t sound well,” I said. I stood there while seconds turned into days. As I listened to the crickets in my mind, I wondered, what now? Deciding to cross a line, I did something that I have never done with my mother. I placed the back of my hand against her forehead to check for a fever, just like she did with me when I was a child. She was hot. I asked whether she felt feverish, but of course, she said, “No.”

Needing proof, I got a digital thermometer and asked her to place it in her mouth. Surprisingly, she did without question. In the moments that I waited for it to beep, I considered my next steps. If it were high, I would take her to the emergency room. But if it weren’t, what would I do? She looked terrible. I was concerned about her contracting pneumonia, one of the complications that often kill young children and senior citizens alike.

The thermometer beeped. My mom didn’t have her glasses on. She couldn’t read the numbers, but I could – 102.7 degrees.

“I’m going to take you to the emergency room. Go ahead and get ready,” I said. I left my mother alone before she could give me a debate. However, when I returned, she showed me the thermometer reading again. Now it read, 93.3!

“Uh…that’s not a good number either,” I said. With a sigh, she conceded, and we were off to the hospital. I’d passed the first test – having the courage to discuss health issues with my mother.

For many adult children, it can be tough to step into the role of a care partner. Many of us don’t think or talk about what it means to provide support to an older loved one until a calamity forces us. Having uncomfortable discussions about advanced directives, finances, or physical and emotional needs means preparing for a day when your parent or loved one is no longer the person you remember. It’s acknowledging that loss may be closer than we would like.

For the care recipient, the big fear is relinquishing one’s independence. With each diagnosis or significant health incidence, an older adult’s world can shrink as the activity he has control over dwindles a little more. However, the alternative of waiting until a catastrophic health event comes with financial, emotional and physical risks that are far worse than the discomfort of having conversations before something awful happens.

When we arrived at the emergency room, the healthcare team at the hospital saw Mom immediately. Their focus, as it should have been, was on her and only referenced me when they asked her whether she wanted me in the room while they treated her. They took her vitals, asked questions, and Mom was ready with answers. She had her social security and insurance cards along with descriptions of her medications in a transparent, plastic covering. She readily answered the staff’s questions.

After running a test on a sample, they determined that she indeed had the flu. They gave her meds for the fever and any possible infections. A couple of hours later, we were on our way back home. And within a few days, her health was back to normal.

This incident was my first experience as a care partner for my mother. Fortunate for me, I fell into the shallow end of the pool.

Creepy Old Men

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by Misha Stallworth, Director of Arts & Culture

In the face of the numerous sexual assault allegations in the news over the past few weeks I am affronted by the fact that the face of this news is that of an “old man.” Across the stories what is common is that the men who have been accused are not only older but look “older” in the ways we have come to understand age. They have gray hair, their skin is wrinkled, their bodies are not particularly taut and so on. My worry with this is that we start to misappropriate certain behaviors with certain ages especially given that it’s something we already do. If an older man is attracted to a younger person, they are more likely to be looked at as inappropriate. If he hits on or attempts to hit on a younger person, he quickly becomes a “creepy old man” or a potential “sugar daddy.” We see this image all the time in television and movies and we see the response of the older man being berated, made fun of, and or ignored. These are labels that erase the sexuality of men after a certain age— they can no longer be attracted to people or interested in intimacy instead they are reduced to financial sponsors and predators.

What people do and how they hurt one another is not a function of age but of the individual—it’s important that we remember that. It’s essential that as we are bombarded with images that tell us the Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” is suave, attractive, aging appropriately, and therefore allowed to be used in sexual messaging, we are equally aware of the messages that tell us men who become wrinkled and lose some mobility are no longer allowed to have any sexuality. These messages isolate older people from intimacy and romantic connection not only with people of different ages but also among their peers in age. No one is immune from picking up the de-sexualizing gaze toward older people. However, adults of any age continue to be human and humans overwhelming thrive with access to loving physical touch. We must honor that in ourselves and others. Older men can find women of any age attractive, can have new love across age, can have consensual, nurturing and loving sex lives through relationships or hook ups. Being an older man does not make one a predator.

It is essential at times like these that we are cautious in the conclusions we make and that we do not blindly condemn groups of people for the wrong reasons. Have older men been raised and come of age in times that emphasized disempowerment of women? For sure. Are there likely new lessons about gender dynamics for older men to learn. Yup. But that doesn’t mean that an older man’s sexual appetite is inherently problematic. Ashton Applewhite puts it perfectly in her book This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism “people are creeps because they’re creeps, not because they’re over a certain age.” Older people have every right to a consensual sex and love life, so find love where you can and watch out for the creeps.

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Holiday Tips for Caregivers

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by Ariel Kennedy, Hannan Center Social Work Intern

While the holidays can be stressful for everyone, they are especially stressful for caregivers. Here are some tips to help you cope with the holiday stress:

ASK FOR HELP – Adding holiday planning on top of your normal daily tasks is a lot. Ask for help from family members or friends. This could be help with cooking the meal, cleaning, or help with caregiving duties. You might also want to look into caregiving help in the form of adult day centers or respite care programs.

SIMPLIFY – You’re busy enough in your day-to-day life, there’s no reason to go overboard for the holidays! Instead of cooking the whole meal, consider asking people to bring some of the dishes, such as dessert. You might also want to consider having the meal catered. Don’t feel pressured to go all out with the decorations or holiday activities. Instead pick a few things that are really important to you and your family and leave the rest out.

START NEW TRADITIONS – Just because you might not be able to do all of your old traditions doesn’t mean that you can’t make new ones! If cooking a full meal is too much, start the tradition of eating out at a favorite restaurant, or having a potluck. If going out to a movie theater is too difficult, have everyone gather at your home, or the home of a family member to watch a movie. Finding new traditions can help alleviate the loss of old ones.

MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF – It’s easy to feel overwhelmed during the holidays so make sure to set aside some time for yourself. Whether it’s exercising, taking a hot bath, meditation, or catching up on your tv shows, make sure to set some time aside to unwind and take care of yourself.

PLAN AHEAD – Planning ahead will allow you to have more time with your family as well as time for yourself. Take time well before the holiday to plan out your menu and to contact your guests to invite them and let them know if they should bring anything. Having a plan in place will help you see what you may need assistance with and what traditions will be more hassle than they are worth.

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There’s No Good Time for the Talk

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by Vincent Tilford, Executive Director

During Thanksgiving weekend, I had what I thought was a reasonable conversation with a relative who in so many words told me to mind my own business.

My uncle, who is eighty-one-years- old, lives alone. His wife died many years ago, and his closest blood relative is his niece, my wife. When we were visit- ing him this past holiday, he proudly showed me some of his home improvements that he had completed — a remodeled bathroom and a basement that he had turned into his “man cave.” Uncle has always been a wiz with his hands, so it was no surprise that he did all of that work.

My problem, and it’s clearly mine and not his, was that while walking the house admiring his handiwork everywhere I looked I saw hazards – a new 32-inch high soaker tub; bathrooms without grab bars, and looming stairways with loose carpeting on the steps and no handrails. When I rst visited him in the 1990s, I never thought about these things, but now they seem like death traps, at least for someone who’s isn’t as spry as he used to be. I’ve known him for nearly thirty years and have watched as time has bent his back and carved him into just skin and gristle. Less than ve and a half feet tall, he’s a small man who moves a little slower and more gingerly than he did ten years ago (but so do I).

I started the conversation with affirming statements.

“Love the man cave,” I said. “And that’s a sweet remodel that you did to the bathroom.” He nodded. Uncle was never one to show much emotion, but his lips turned up slightly into what I thought was a smile, so I eased into my concerns.

“You know, I had a hard time stepping into and out of your tub. It must be a challenge for you.”

“I manage,” he replied. Not hearing the warning in his voice and guring that my positive statements had softened him, I plowed ahead.

“Let me put up some grab bars for you before we go. I could also nail the carpet down on the stairs so that you don’t trip.”

“I don’t need grab bars; I have no problems getting into and out of the tub. And don’t worry about the carpet. I plan to have someone redo it in a couple of weeks.” He left me no openings; still, I laid out my arguments.

“We could take care of it now. It wouldn’t be a problem at all. Accidents are never planned. What if you fall when no one is around, and you can’t move? It could be days before someone checks on you.”

“I understand, but I’m ne.” And then he left the room.

My conversation with my uncle didn’t exactly go as planned, but I don’t regret having it. Talking with your loved ones about aging is hard and sometimes they aren’t receptive. Most of us equate getting older with becoming more frail and sickly. We fear losing our independence or that our health will take a downward spiral the moment we admit to ourselves and others that we need help. However, not talking about it leaves us all vulnerable to emotional, nancial and physical stresswhen a challenging situation arises and decisions have to be made about someone’s care.

Most caregivers and their care recipients whose life-changing events were sudden wish that they had had a plan to handle care sooner when everyone can be a full participant in the conversations about where and how will care be provided. What will it cost and what can we afford? What steps can we take to make it possible to live as long as possible in one’s home? Are there potential family caregivers who can afford the time and emotional energy needed for caregiving? What resources are available to support the caregiver and the recipient?

As we enter the holiday season, we should make plans to talk about our future and long-term care with our family and those who may be part of our care network. There’s never a perfect time to talk about long-term care and planning and it may be uncomfortable. But the cost of not doing so is far higher than any short-term discomfort.

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