Creating Wellness In Aging

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Wellness is both a state of mind and a body experience. Where you place the emphasis is up to you. Our actual age and the feeling of ‘what age you are’ is less relevant than the quality of the life you are living. With increasing longevity we are experiencing issues that occurred less frequently in the past. Back in 1900 when the lifespan averaged 47 years of age, the issue of ‘old age’ and ‘dementias’ had little impact on most families. We now boast an average lifespan of 80 years with the additional years all being in the advanced portion of the process! This wonderful extension of life has allowed us to develop wisdom and enjoy many generations of our family, but also created a potential flip side of new learning and challenges.

One of the greatest concerns I hear from families regarding aging and health is to maintain their cognitive abilities, and remain independent as they age. There are several key pieces to living life well with the biggest contributor beingAttitude. Viktor Frankl sums this up beautifully in the following quote:

Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

Man’s Search for Meaning

Choosing how you wish to livewhere that is and with whom are primary choices that contribute to quality of life and aging with dignity. Although we may consider these important issues in private we often don’t share them in detail with others. Perhaps we hope that it won’t be necessary or that it could be a burden or emotional for others to hear our wishes. In my 30 years as a Palliative Care Nurse the theme I commonly heard was that my clients wished they had talked about important things earlier as they gained so much from these discussions! Not only the absolute relief, but also the positive impact it had on family relationships.

When we approach life or difficult issues from fear we often avoid or postpone necessary personal work. When we approach with love and openness we find the people and the courage to do things that bring great rewards and growth for us and those around us. We begin to learn about the world in the safety of our home with our parents by being allowed to try and possibly fail so that we learn and build on skills. As adults we expect that we should know how to do things and become very autonomous, sometimes to our own detriment. As the life cycle continues and we age or experience a major health issue, we are reminded of our need to be in relationship with others. Wellness comes from health and healthy relationships and knowing that you are not alone when facing difficulties or sharing joy.

As our society ages and faces the upcoming movement of the Boomers into the Senior years we need to become innovative in how we view and support aging. If we believe that we need to reduce the fear that is being spread about this issue we need to address issues earlier and in a positive light. This means empowering people to determine how they would like to age and opening up conversations that supports this. The Financial Industry has been a leader in this area and there is now a movement within Health Care to start addressing this as well. Health Care’s focus has been on End of Life, which is important, but incomplete. Imagine a Financial plan that doesn’t take changing health into account. How helpful would that be?

Planning that embraces Health, Financial and Legal Planning and understands the relationship between these areas will support you and your family in a healthier aging process and serve you better if a crisis occurs. The basics of the Legal and Financial Planning side are well established with the Health component now being built and integrated to ‘completing the whole’. This has been a missing piece that many families only realize in a crisis, thinking that they actually had planning in place.

Empower yourself by doing the work to establish comprehensive planning. Understand what your personal important health wishes would be in the case of a significant accident, a head injury or advanced dementia. These will guide your family at a time when emotions rule and logic is secondary. This becomes a Gift of Planning that honors your wishes and supports your family. Creating Wellness comes from actively living now and reducing potential burdens from your family with unknown challenges by having plans in place. Families with this guidance experience challenges and loss very differently and move forward having grown from challenges supported by loved one’s wishes.

About Proactive Health Care Advisors

Janet Bullard founded Proactive Health Care Advisors (PHCA) in 2008 in response to the growing needs of an aging population that is living much longer but experiencing chronic illness and associated quality of life issues. PHCA helps individuals and families navigate the complexities of health care planning, medical crises and decision-making for their loved ones.

Janet is an Associate Professor in the Nursing Faculty at the University of Calgary. She has earned the National Certification of Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Nurse – CHPCN (c), is a Member of CARNA {College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta}, and is also a Member of CNA {Canadian Nurses Association}. Janet is also a CSA (Certified Seniors Advisor) with the Canadian Academy of Senior Advisors, professionals who understand and serve our senior population.

More info www.proactivehealthadvisor.com

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