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Be Prepared for the Future

Some people work better under the stress of a deadline. They tell themselves that they are only motivated to do their best under pressure. That may be true, but it is risky to apply that situation when seniors (and their children) have to make health care decisions in a crisis mode.

It is natural to feel uncomfortable to confront the inevitability of failing health or death with family members. Perhaps you are the daughter or son who feels it may be disrespectful to bring up the topic to Mom and Dad. Or you may be a parent and want to spare your kids from envisioning the time when you will not be strong enough to make decisions on your own.

Don’t wait for the perfect time, because there is no perfect time. Things can change suddenly, and if you don’t know your family  members’ wishes, location of documents and other vital information, it will be much more difficult to manage in a crisis situation. Discussing far-off, hypothetical scenarios are actually easier to address rather than when reality hits and you try to sort out options in the emergency room.

A good first step is to find out if there is a current will, a durable power of attorney, a health care power of attorney and an advance health care directive
(also known as a living will) in place. If not, now is the time to consult a lawyer about the purpose of each document and to understand your loved one’s options.

Exploring these legal issues will bring up many of the decisions that will need to be made. For example, your family member will need to give someone the authority to make financial and legal decisions on their behalf when completing a durable power of attorney. A health care power of attorney will require naming someone who will be responsible for medical decisions in the event of  physical or mental incapacity. An advance health care directive will provide instructions specifying what actions should be taken in the event they are no longer able to make decisions due to illness or incapacity.

Be careful about finding free forms on the Internet. While the forms may look similar to those drawn by an attorney, you can’t be sure that the “do it yourself” document will be accepted by all financial institutions and insurance companies. Additionally, different states require different criteria. Do it once, and do it correctly.

Does your family member desire aggressive medical interventions using the latest technology to battle an incurable health condition, or would they rather forego life-sustaining measures that would serve only to prolong dying? There is a document called POLST that is printed on brightly colored pink paper so it cannot be easily overlooked. POLST stands for Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment which is designed to give people more control over end of life care. The individual can detail their wishes about the degree of medical intervention they desire. It is signed by the individual and their doctor and represents a promise by all health care professionals to honor the wishes stated in the document. The POLST should accompany the documents listed above. It is not a replacement for an advance health care directive.

There are also personal preferences beyond financial and health care issues that are important to talk about. How does your family member feel about alternative living arrangements if he or she can no longer safely stay at home? If a crisis arises, who should be contacted? Do you have the names and phone numbers of their doctors, lawyer, relatives, clergy, or even friends?

These are weighty issues, and are not likely to be settled in just one conversation. It is a good idea to talk about it in person, rather than on the phone, emails or letters. Be patient and open to their responses, without bringing a hidden agenda according to what you believe is best. You may be surprised about your family member’s wishes.

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Five Steps to a Positive Attitude

5 Steps to a Positive Attitude

A positive attitude is highly connected to longevity and improved life satisfaction in survey after survey. It seems that those individuals who have a positive attitude live longer and experience happier lives. But a positive attitude is not just something you have; it is something you have to continually work at as you get older. Loss of loved ones, impaired health, dealing with financial issues, and the modern culture’s attitude towards the elderly can make keeping a positive attitude more challenging. To develop and maintain a positive attitude, I recommend the following five steps.

Stay Connected

Social isolation increases with age. We lose friends and family and end up spending more time alone. While a certain amount of private time is essential, too much of it can make us feel disconnected and we start to wonder if anyone cares about us. Feelings of depression and anxiety increase without our connections to others. It is important to spend time and energy maintaining the friendships you have and work on building new relationships. Many people that I talk to mention that some of their best friendships are those that they developed later in life. In addition to friendships, I recommend being active in clubs, associations, and your church where you will find many people who share your interests and passions.

Contribute

Those individuals who volunteer and give back to their communities consistently report positive emotions and a sense of satisfaction. Everyone needs to feel needed at some level, and helping others feeds this need. Your time and effort can help so many people who are in need. Especially with all of the cutbacks of government services, the contributions of individuals become increasingly important. Pick a charity or group that you feel a connection to and volunteer your time.  You’ll feel better for it.

Stay Active

Physical activity and exercise are key to maintaining your health and attitude. Exercise increases the release of neurotransmitters that are associated with positive mood and is also has a pronounced positive effect on lowing cholesterol and blood pressure. Exercise helps maintain your bone mass as well as your muscle tone. Completing an exercise or physical activity has the added benefit of giving you a sense of accomplishment. It is important not to overdo exercise
so be sure to check with your doctor about what level and intensity is right for you.

Keep your Brain Active

There is considerable research that demonstrates maintaining a high level of mental activity and stimulation is great for your attitude and maintaining your mental health.Reading, playing games, and doing mental challenges such as crossword puzzles and brain teasers helps your memory and mental processing. Keep reading books and the newspaper, stay up with current events, and engage your brain by thinking deeply and often about issues. As the saying goes, the brain is a muscle that needs to be exercised.

Another part of keeping your brain active is to practice the art of positive thinking. Don’t dwell on past negative events; instead focus on the positive things that are going on in your life now. Positive thinking is all about perspective and it is something you can manage if you put your mind to it. Look for and recognize the positive that is happening all around you.

Have Fun

Engaging in hobbies and non-work related activities help you to keep a positive attitude. Although we are older, try to stay connected to the kid inside you by making sure you include enough play time in your day. The most important aspect of fun is that it has no other purpose than to give us enjoyment. Fun is good for the heart and soul.

By practicing these five steps on a daily basis and encouraging others around you to do the same,
you will find that your life is happier and more fulfilling, and your positive attitude will be a life companion.

Keep your Brain Active and Have Fun by playing our PhotoTeasers every Friday.

 

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