How to Talk About Getting Old and Not Be Afraid – The Caring Generation®

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The Caring Generation® – Episode 76 March 10, 2021. On this caregiver podcast, How to Talk About Getting Old and Not Be Afraid, caregiving expert Pamela D Wilson shares experiences about aging and how young and older adults can plan ahead for healthy aging and retirement. An interview with Barb, a caregiver, offers insights into how what we think may happen about care isn’t always the way that caregiving works out. Plus, an interview with Dr. Nancy Berlinger shares information about living longer and making decisions about health.

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How to Talk About Getting Old and Not Be Afraid

0:00:04.0 Announcer: Caregiving can sometimes feel like an impossible struggle. Caregivers may be torn between taking care of loved ones and trying to maintain balance in life. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The Caring Generation, with host Pamela D. Wilson. Is here to focus on the conversation of caring. You’re not alone. In fact, you’re in exactly the right place to share stories and learn tips and resources to help you and your loved ones. So now, please welcome the host of The Caring Generation, Pamela D. Wilson.

Watch More Videos About Caregiving and Aging on Pamela’s YouTube Channel

0:00:38:0 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, speaker, eldercare consultant, and guardian of The Caring Generation. The Caring Generation focuses on the conversation of caring, giving us permission to talk about aging, the challenges of caregiving, and everything in between. It seems that when the time comes when we need care, or we become a caregiver, our world is turned upside down. There is little dignity, little clarity, and certainly no stability. Let’s be honest, most of us prefer a life without change. The Caring Generation is here to guide you along the journey to let you know that you’re not alone.

0:01:23:97 Pamela D Wilson: You’re in exactly the right place to share stories, learn tips, and resources to help you and your loved ones to plan for what’s ahead.  We’re here to create The Caring Generation.  Please invite your loved ones, family, and friends to listen to the show each week.  I have another amazing show for you this week so that we can all learn how to talk about getting old and not be afraid. We are a society that doesn’t want to talk about issues related to aging, poor health, caregiving, or death. All of those things happen—tomorrow. We want to live for today. But—if you are a caregiver or an aging adult, you know differently.

0:02:12:76 Pamela D Wilson: How to talk about getting old can start as early as the time we experience a physical injury that affects our daily functioning. A sporting accident, a fall, an accident at work. One never knows.  Suddenly, we experience a few aches and pains that make it more difficult for us to do things and accept this as normal. Many of you know that I go to the gym. One day I was working out, and I overheard two men talking. One said that he had a fall and hurt his leg. He didn’t go to the doctor until the injury got really bad. You can probably see where this is going, yes?

0:03:01:98 Pamela D Wilson: By the time he saw the doctor the injury had caused more injury, and now he needs surgery. Where, if he went right when the injury occurred, it probably would have been healed by now. As adults, caregivers, thoughts of prevention rarely enter our minds. We don’t think about the consequences of a change in health, or an injury that we think will heal but may not. How to talk about getting old and not be afraid means that we take an interest in our health and well-being rather than taking our body for granted. The problem? Self-care takes time from other parts of our lives.

0:03:49:43 Pamela D Wilson: Cutting corners on taking care of our health when we are young means that we may have to devote substantial time to take care of our health when we’re older. If you are caring for an aging parent, how much time did you commit at the start of caregiving, and how much time are you devoting today? What health issues do your parents have that you might be able to prevent if you are willing to address the topic of how to talk about getting old and not be afraid? My experience is that adult children caring for elderly parents miss the opportunity to learn how to cope and plan for aging.

For more information on managing and planning for care for aging parents or yourself, check out Pamela’s caregiver support page and online courses.

0:04:34:20 Pamela D Wilson: I want to share a discussion between me and a caregiver Barb, about her experience caring for her mother.

0:04:44:70 Pamela D Wilson:  So first question, remind me back when your mom was first sick, and she needed care, how did the family react, and how did your mom react.

0:04:52:44 Barb Caregiver: Ah, my family was pretty much in denial. And everybody, as far as the family was concerned, was too busy to help out with her, including myself.

0:05:06:72 Pamela D Wilson: So what did you do?

0:05:09:79 Barb Caregiver:  So, I eventually—so we had her in a nursing home. Very, very good. It was a lockdown, Alzheimer. One day I went to go see her. Maybe she’d been there a couple of months, and I didn’t even recognize her. I asked where my mother was, and they said, “well, she’s right there,” and I said, “where?” And they said, “right there at the table.” I had no—she looked a hundred years old. One day I went to visit her, and she had a bandage on her arm. And I said, “could I ask what happened to my mother here?” And they said, “well, the doctor is checking her blood so that we can be sure that the medication that we’re giving her is okay.” And I said, “what medication? We don’t know anything about any medication. Why weren’t we called about this?” “Oh, we don’t need your consent.” When we left and pulled my mother out of there, she was on eight different kinds of medication.

0:06:06:43 Pamela D Wilson: And today?

0:06:09:14 Barb Caregiver: Today zero. Not one.  Now she’s on nothing. No blood pressure medication and she eats wonderful. She sleeps wonderful.

0:06:16:98 Pamela D Wilson: You’re lucky.

0:06:19:07 Barb Caregiver: Very, very lucky.

0:06:20:35 Pamela D Wilson: So how did the, I know that there was something between you and your sisters what happened with all that?

0:06:25:72 Barb Caregiver: Well, actually, four of us all started out together. And then one of my sisters said, “you know what this is too much. I don’t want to be involved.” So, she pulled out of it. And then we had another sister that lived in California. And she said, “I’ll come twice a year and help out.” Well, that lasted one year. Now she doesn’t call. She doesn’t come out. So, we never hear from her. So, there’s a sister in Lafayette, and myself. Now my sister in Lafayette used to take her every weekend because she still works. But it would give me a break since I have her Monday through Friday. But it got to be too much for her as well. So, she has her every other weekend. And I have her all the rest of the time.

0:07:15:20 Pamela D Wilson: So how has that affected you?

0:07:17:00 Barb Caregiver:  I have a wonderful husband. He helps me with her. And she’s very; you know my mom is pretty—even though she’s classified as Alzheimer’s. The mornings are great. But the afternoons, it’s pretty much gibberish. I have to—she doesn’t know what it means to eat anymore. She doesn’t know bathroom anymore. You have to show her so that she’ll follow and do the things we want her to. So, it’s gotten—for me, it’s gotten easier. For my sister in the other city, it’s still difficult for her. So that’s why she takes her Saturday morning, and she’s back home with me Sunday by three. So you see, that’s really not much of a break for me. We tried. We tried nursing homes—that didn’t work. It did not work. Um, we tried assisted living. That definitely didn’t work. And now, when she wakes up at 2 and 3 in the morning, I’m there. I’m there to change her because she wets the bed or you know we have her. She’s uh, continent?

0:08:30:60 Pamela D Wilson: Incontinent

0:08:31:83 Barb Caregiver: Incontinent, so but during the day, she’s fine. I just happen to know when she needs to go to the bathroom. Just because she has Alzheimer’s doesn’t mean you can get away with stuff. Because you can’t. She’s very smart.

0:08:46:01 Pamela D Wilson: And what happens when you’re older, and you need care? Who’s going to do it?

0:08:52:00 Barb Caregiver: Well, that’s interesting because we laugh about that now. I have four children. Two girls and two boys. I have the youngest one (a girl) who says, “don’t worry, mom, I’ll take care of you.” My youngest son says the same thing. “No worry.  I’ll take care of you—you can live with me.” But—one of my sisters was very dedicated to my mother. They traveled around the world two or three different times. There wasn’t anywhere that my mother—that my sister wasn’t—you didn’t see my mother. But when it got classified as she was severe dementia, my sister dropped out and said, “I can’t handle it.” So, when she was well and could do things, it was great. She’d take care of her until the end. But when she got sick, she didn’t want to change her underwear. Didn’t want to give her a bath. And so, it’s hard telling what’s going to happen when I get old.

0:09:45:66 Pamela D Wilson: What do you think?

0:09:47:70 Barb Caregiver: I guess, like most people, I don’t think about it that much. I just think, you know, I don’t think my mom thought about it. That she would ever be in the state, she is today. And I think that’s what happens with us today. We don’t think —that’s way down the road. But you know what? I’m going to just turn around one day, and it’s going to be there. And I’m going to say, “oh my goodness, now what?”

0:10:16:62 Pamela D Wilson: We will continue with how to talk about getting old after this break. I’m Pamela D Wilson on the Caring Generation. I help family caregivers and organizations talk about caregiving to understand the decisions related to caring for elderly parents or loved ones, navigate the healthcare system, discuss financial and legal plans for care and apply all of this learning to our own lives, so we are not passing caregiving worries and responsibilities down to the next generation without giving this some thought and planning. Visit my website, PamelaDWilson.com, where you will find information about keynotes, webinars, online courses about elderly care, and all of The Caring Generation podcast episodes. Stay with me; I’ll be right back.

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0:11:38:50 Pamela D Wilson:  This is Pamela D Wilson on The Caring Generation, the only program of its kind caring to make your life easier by tackling uncomfortable and intimidating discussions about aging, caregiving, and everything in between.  If you’re seeking support to avoid unexpected caregiving issues, not sure what to do, maybe things aren’t working out as you expected— the A to Z of caregiving is in my online caregiver course called Stay at Home: Taking Care of Elderly Parents at Home and Beyond on my website at PamelaDWilson.com. We are back to talk about how to talk about getting old and not be afraid.

0:12:25:60 Pamela D Wilson:  When caregivers become involved in caring for elderly parents, money often becomes a concern. Caregivers who work are pressed for time to care for aging parents. Because parents assume children will provide care, and children feel a responsibility and a duty to provide care—conversations about who will provide care, how, and the costs of care rarely if ever, happen at the beginning of helping elderly parents. Suppose all families could turn back the clock and begin the conversation of how to talk about getting old and not be afraid when children are young. In that case, caregiving might not grow to encompass the magnitude of issues that happen today.

0:13:15:57 Pamela D Wilson:  Your parents—probably much like Barb the caregiver—took care of their aging parents—your grandparents and then forgot about the experience – or wanted to forget about the experience. This purposeful or routine forgetting robs adults of conversations about how to talk about getting old and not be afraid. Instead, many adults fall into the same trap that our parents fell into when dreaming about retirement. According to a study by PEW Research, expectations about life in retirement differ from the reality of life in retirement. Is this surprising to anyone?

0:14:00:52 Pamela D Wilson:  Let me share a few statistics from the report. Old age is perceived to begin at about age 68. Most people want to live until about age 89. Most adults dream of having more time in retirement for hobbies and interests, time to volunteer or continue working. Maybe even start a second career, time for travel, feeling more financially secure, and experiencing less stress. Spoiler alert—experiencing more of all of this is not the reality of most retired persons. Can you guess why? Interesting is the fact that the older people get, the younger they feel? How young do you feel today? I don’t know about you—I stopped aging after 35.

0:14:57:80 Pamela D Wilson:  How to talk about getting old and not be afraid involves believing that we are as young as we think but being realistic about Father Time and what we can do today to have a better experience when we age. According to the PEW study, 25% of adults over age 65 report experiencing memory loss. 20% have a serious illness or feel sad or depressed. 16% report feeling lonely or having trouble paying bills, 14% can’t drive, and 10% say that they aren’t needed or are a burden to others. With all of this in mind, let’s talk about actions we can take today to cope with getting old. Number one is maintaining a positive outlook.

0:15:56:96 Pamela D Wilson:  Positivity offers many health benefits: living longer, lower rates of depression, lower stress, better health, better psychological and physical health. Laughter is another important factor that links to positivity. The actress Betty White turned 99 years old this past January. Think of others. Carol Burnett lived to age 87, Dick Van Dyke is 95, Bob Hope lived to 100, Bob Barker is 97. Our thoughts are in our control. Choose to think positively instead of dwelling on the negative.

0:16:45:02 Pamela D Wilson:  Number two on the list of actions to take today is to realize that life is as hard as we make it. This means that our beliefs, outlooks, and perceptions about life create our reality. While everyone experiences challenges and hardships, we get what we expect out of life. If you’re struggling, take a look at your daily thoughts and beliefs about life and the results that you’re getting. How to talk about getting old and not being afraid includes the idea of redirection. If you are caring for a parent or loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s, you may be familiar with the skill of redirection. Persons with memory loss can engage in repetitive behaviors or statements.

0:17:39:20 Pamela D Wilson:  Experience teaches that the way to interrupt these behaviors and thought patterns is the idea of redirection or distraction. For example, your parent continually repeats, “I want to go home,” or starts packing a suitcase so that he or she can go home. What are the options? Tell mom or dad that you will take them home right after lunch and provide lunch as a distraction or redirection. Mom or dad will forget about going home because they are engaged in a different activity. Redirecting or distracting the mind from unhelpful beliefs and perceptions is similar. Each time you fall into a negative pattern, have a standard method to break the pattern.

0:18:31:17 Pamela D Wilson:  Read an inspirational book for a minute, listen to a favorite song, stand up and look out the window. Do whatever it takes to break the pattern. You can use the same pattern-breaking activity for how to talk about getting old and not be afraid. Instead of being afraid of aging, do something positive that supports health and well-being. Number three for how to talk about getting old and not being afraid is to see problems as opportunities. This includes embracing change instead of being a victim. Being an adult involves having to think for ourselves and face the consequences.

0:19:17:92 Pamela D Wilson:  Important. The consequences of health and mental habits that we don’t talk about or don’t take an interest in are significant factors in aging well and aging positively. Participating in regular medical care beginning at a young age—rather than believing you will know when something goes wrong—poses better results for how to talk about getting old and not be afraid. Examples of undiagnosed conditions that have far-reaching effects are diabetes and high blood pressure. Many times, individuals with these early conditions do not experience changes in health that they notice to be significant. So, they don’t see a doctor.

0:20:07:33 Pamela D Wilson:  Regular preventative medical care can prevent health issues that become more significant and have greater consequences with age. Number four for how to talk about getting old and not be afraid is becoming comfortable with you. COVID has brought increased attention to the idea of being okay with being alone. Being alone does not have to mean, to mean being lonely. Part of aging that you will come to know—if this hasn’t already happened to you is losing friends. Attending school makes it easy to meet people of similar ages with similar interests.

0:20:49:99 Pamela D Wilson:  After we graduate from high school or college, friends may move away. The action of keeping in touch takes effort. We become busy with family life, and if we are a caregiver, we may give up time with friends to devote time to being a caregiver. Maintaining lifelong friendships supports better health and well-being. Continuing to be social and to make new friends is a blessing in life. Cultivating social and people skills can be difficult for persons who see themselves as introverts, not extroverts. If you find yourself in a situation where you have few friends, make an effort today to join a social or hobby group.

0:21:40:89 Pamela D Wilson:  Volunteer. Find an outlet for socializing where you have the opportunity to be around people and make new friends. Friendship is another item on the positive list for how to talk about getting old and not be afraid. Lifelong friendships give us a reason to stay around. Adults who have friends fare better in dealing with stress and avoid adverse health effects on the body. Friendships offer a sense of belonging and purpose. Remember the statistics from the PEW report? Sad, depressed, lonely, no purpose in life, and feeling like a burden.

0:22:29:08 Pamela D Wilson:  You can make the choice today to NOT be among the percentage of persons over age 65 who count themselves in these situations. Socializing and making friends has positive benefits and makes the topic list for how to talk about getting old and not be afraid a little more comfortable. A bonus is having friends who have an interest in health, making it more likely that you will take up an interest in health. Having good friends boosts self-confidence and self-esteem. Up next, my discussion with Dr. Nancy Berlinger about addressing difficult discussions about care and caregiving. We’re going to hit this topic head-on.

0:23:16:95 Pamela D Wilson:  Join me every Wednesday for The Caring Generation. The show is not limited by time zone or location—caregivers worldwide are invited to listen. The podcasts and the show transcripts are on my website at PamelaDWilson.com and all of your favorite podcast apps: Apple, Google, Spreaker, Podcast Addict, Pandora, Amazon Music, Stitcher, Spotify, I Heart Radio, Podchaser, Jio Saavn, Vurbl, and More. Add the podcast app for the Caring Generation show to the cellphone of elderly parents, in-laws, and other family members. I’m Pamela D Wilson on The Caring Generation. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.

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0::24:27:33 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, speaker, and elder care consultant on The Caring Generation. The only program of its kind caring to make your life easier by tackling uncomfortable and intimidating discussions about aging, caregiving, and everything in between. Share and visit my website PamelaDWilson.com with others you know. One in 4 people are caregivers looking for hope, help, and support and don’t know where to turn or who to trust.

0:25:07:33 Pamela D Wilson: To continue the topic of how to talk about getting older and not be afraid I want to share my conversation with Dr. Nancy Berlinger. Dr. Berlinger is a research scholar at the Hastings Center, an independent non-profit bioethics research institute whose work focuses on two significant themes: ethical and societal changes related to population aging and the role of health practitioners. In this conversation, we talk about why people live longer and how health diagnoses or treatments started at age 60 may look different and have different consequences when we are 80 or even 90.

0:25:51:41 Pamela D Wilson: Talk about what’s changed that we’re experiencing more ethical issues related to death today than years ago.

0:25:58:87 Dr. Nancy Berlinger: Well, the two biggest reasons are longevity and technology. Americans are living much longer than they did a hundred years ago, and people are dying of different things because of the difference in longevity. Reducing certain causes of death due to infection, for example, because of the introduction of antibiotics or death due to workplace injuries. We don’t have as many people who die in farming accidents or mining accidents, although people certainly do still die in those ways.

0:26:30:84 Dr. Nancy Berlinger: Meaning that Americans are living long enough to develop age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, diseases of major organ systems, and cancer which typically strikes people in their 7th, 8th, 9th generation of life. And of course, we have more ways to treat these conditions. In some cases, to help people maintain their health while they have these conditions. You think of something like a pacemaker, for example. When it is introduced, it may help you maintain your health. But if you start to develop other conditions, decisions about the pacemaker become prominent. More prominent in your life. You may be thinking about it differently at 80 than you did at 60, for example.

0:27:11:99 Dr. Nancy Berlinger: So, we keep coming back to when we talk about ethical issues—we keep coming back to questions about what do I want. What would a patient who is no longer able to make decisions want? And for physicians and for other healthcare professionals, there are additional challenges. How do I present these issues to patients and their loved ones to support informed decision-making? So that’s a short answer to a very important question.

0:27:38:37 Pamela D Wilson: Well, and to that point about presenting information about decision making, is there more pressure on people to accept medical treatment than to just decline—do you think?

0:27:47:98 Dr. Nancy Berlinger: It’s difficult to say because if you ask a physician, he or she might say it’s the patients and the families who are always asking about new treatments. Everybody is Googling the latest drug. And it’s true. You know, people do read what’s in the newspaper. They read what’s online. they check things out. They, that may be part of being an informed consumer, you know. So that’s been a change in the culture. But if you ask patients and their loved ones, they may still say they wish they had more information about the consequences of medical decisions, not just the fact that there is a drug, there is a technology.

0:28:23:17 Dr. Nancy Berlinger: But what will happen if we start this? If we try this? So often, it comes down to the quality of communication between patients and physicians or among patients, physicians, and loved ones. And this takes time, and it takes practice. And often, the physician is in the best place to establish the fact that if there needs to be collaboration around these issues. A forum for discussing treatment decisions as they come up. So it isn’t crisis-driven decision-making. Although there are situations where you have to make decisions very quickly in a critical care setting, for example.

0:29:02:26 Dr. Nancy Berlinger: But even then, there can be attention to the need to have the opportunity to ask questions. To take in information. To do time-limited trials. To say, we’ll let’s try this out for a period of time, and here’s what we’re looking for in terms of the benefits and the burdens of the treatment. So, you can make a decision based on a little more experience about what it’s like to be on this drug or to use this technology.

0:29:30:22 Pamela D Wilson: Well, let’s use your example of a pacemaker and then maybe somebody who is on dialysis. Let’s say the pacemaker is starting to fail. Somebody is having more heart issues. The person on dialysis is kind of just getting tired of it. What are quality of life issues that should be discussed that might make somebody to not get that pacemaker replaced, or fixed, or might not even continue dialysis.

0:29:52:44 Dr. Nancy Berlinger: That’s, those are very good questions. When you think about a pacemaker, for example, or another implantable device. The batteries on those could last ten years. And a patient’s health could change. A person’s health could change greatly from 70 to 80 or 80 to 90. And so, we don’t want to sort of defer things to say well, I don’t have to think about anything to do with my health while that battery is still working or the fact that I’m on dialysis to replace the function of my kidneys means that nothing else will happen. This is what I do.

0:30:28:61 Dr. Nancy Berlinger: No, but you know if you have experience with your parents. My parents are in their 70’s.  My grandmother just died at 102. And so, we’re constantly thinking about these issues and talking about these issues. So, it’s amazingly important to keep—and it sounds so basic—to keep talking about this. An individual who is experiencing different health-related problems, or maybe there’s just one. Maybe it’s cancer, or maybe it’s heart disease, should talk with his or her loved ones, including anyone who that patient sees as the decision-maker. The person, whether it’s a spouse, an adult child, whomever the person who they want to make decisions on their behalf.

0:31:16:77 Dr. Nancy Berlinger: But also, other loved ones may be involved in this discussion. Talk about what the patient is feeling right now. What the patient wants at this stage in the patient’s life and if the patient has any feelings about, well you know I like this now. But if X happens, if my health deteriorates beyond a certain point, or I can’t do something, in particular, that is really meaningful to me that would change. That would change how I would think about how I’m using this treatment or this technology. People are individuals. So, we can’t deduce this from what somebody else—what Uncle Harry would have wanted. Aunt Harriett might want something entirely different because she’s a different person. So that’s why just talking about this is hugely important and also challenging because people may find it difficult to talk about these things.

0:32:10:16 Dr. Nancy Berlinger: Um a patient may have started treatment months or years earlier and maybe at the time, a treatment was more effective than it is now. The burdens of the treatment are exceeding its benefits for this patient. But one thing, and maybe this is something that is typically American that comes up, is that the patient’s loved ones, or friends, or physician are still talking about the battle. The battling disease or saying, well, don’t give up, or you’re a fighter or something like that.

0:32:41:34 Pamela D Wilson: We just have time for one more question. Can you talk about why end-of-life care has become so expensive?

0:32:47:49 Dr. Nancy Berlinger: Sure, it goes back to the original question about longevity and technology. We, in the United States, in particular, we tend to have high expectations that concerning technology that it will be there when we want it. When we need it. Hospitals are reimbursed by procedures not for taking care of dying people, for example. So, there’s also an economic incentive to do procedures to use technology.

0:33:13:13 Dr. Nancy Berlinger: As healthcare reform rolls out and as we continue to grapple with the cost of healthcare as the baby boom generation starts using Medicare in large numbers, we’re going to have to grapple with cost of care near the end of life because the current situation is unsustainable. And this requires us to think about the care of dying people as part of healthcare, not as separate from it and not as a failure of healthcare. So that’s going to be a continuing conversation for us in this country.

0:33:41:98 Pamela D Wilson: Dr. Berlinger I thank you so much for your time today.

0:33:45:53 Dr. Nancy Berlinger: Thank you very much.

0:33:46:63 Pamela D Wilson: You’re welcome. Bye, bye.

0:33:47:78 Pamela D Wilson: As caregivers and aging adults talking about care when we age, creating power of attorney documents, a living will, and a will can ensure that the desires we have for our care are implemented. Rather than leave your care to chance and hope that there will be someone available to help you, make that choice today and continue to discuss your wishes with the person you appoint as your agent to act for you.

0:34:14:38 Pamela D Wilson: More information about decision-making for care is on my website at Pamela D Wilson.com. If you enjoy our weekly program and the information and education offered, I ask you to share it with others. Our program is not limited by time zone or location, new shows from The Caring Generation are available each week. You can listen and read the show transcript on my website at PamelaDWilson.com or listen on your favorite podcast apps: Apple, Google, Spreaker, Podcast Addict, Pandora, Amazon Music, Stitcher, Spotify, I Heart Radio, Podchaser, Jio Saavn, Vurbl, and More. I’m Pamela D Wilson on The Caring Generation Stay with me; I’ll be right back.

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0:35:26:07 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D Wilson. You’re with me on The Caring Generation, the only program of its kind bringing caregivers and aging adults worldwide to talk about aging, caregiving, and everything in between. More information and support for caregivers, corporations, and groups are on my website at PamelaDWilson.com, where you’ll find information about keynote events, webinars, online courses, and more.  Let me know how I can help you, your group, or your organization by visiting the Contact Me page on my website and sending an email.

0:35:59:67 Pamela D Wilson: Let’s return to talking about how to talk about getting old and not be afraid. How are you feeling about this topic? More comfortable, less comfortable. Do you see how we have more control over our lives than we realize—especially how we live when we pass through middle age to old age. The important concept is that you can’t wait until you are middle-aged to do something about your health. While we are never too old to make positive changes in life—for example, a person who is 90 who lifts arm weights can improve arm strength.

0:36:39:29 Pamela D Wilson: However, the effects of our youth on our bodies can be long-lasting. Small signs of Alzheimer’s and dementia are evident 10 to 20 years before a diagnosis. What does this mean? It means that anyone listening to this program today may have the beginning of dementia, heart disease, diabetes, and a long list of other chronic diseases. You may not even be aware of this if you have not participated in regular medical care. How to talk about getting old and not be afraid means not being afraid to go to the doctor. Fear of public speaking is one of the most common fears faced by individuals. Add to this the fear of death.

0:37:25:90 Pamela D Wilson: Fears hold us back from achieving all that we might achieve in life. Other common fears include fear of change, loneliness, fear of failure, rejection, uncertainty, judgment, making a mistake, losing control over life, and being emotionally hurt. Looking at this list, I can say that many of these—except public speaking—are fears that caregivers experience. How to talk about getting old and not be afraid means moving past many of these fears that can negatively affect the care we provide to elderly parents, spouses, grandparents, and other family members.

0:38:10:04 Pamela D Wilson: Number five on the list means that every fear we allow to affect our life means giving up an opportunity. If you fear failure, you may be giving up success. If you fear loneliness, you may be giving up an opportunity to make a really good friend by focusing on activities that don’t allow you to meet and connect with other people. Fear of pain and suffering are common fears about aging and caregiving. By fearing or avoiding activities that may require change but be good for us, this fear or avoidance may prevent us from setting ourselves up to avoid pain and suffering.

0:38:59:11 Pamela D Wilson: How to talk about getting old and not being afraid means embracing dealing with health questions, concerns, or aches and pains if these exist. Rather than ignoring these concerns and hoping they will improve. One of the issues here is that aging can be viewed as a normal process of aging that can’t be changed. This means that memory loss is not normal. A body part that is injured can heal if action is taken. That not being able to walk distances or perform physical activities that you once easily performed is just what happens.

0:39:46:45 Pamela D Wilson:  In aging, it’s important not to become complacent or believe that this is all there is to life. If you don’t learn to ask questions, seek information, and fight for yourself, no one else will do this for you.  Number six on the list of how to talk about getting old and not be afraid means not waiting for someone or something to fill in the blanks of your life. Become the person who makes things happen. Set goals, create timelines, and move ahead. If you don’t know how to do this, find someone to help you. If you are uncertain about caring for aging parents rather than remaining stuck—get yourself unstuck. There is no reason for anyone NOT to seek information or help or to continue to learn.

0:40:43:12 Pamela D Wilson: The only reason may be that you are not interested, or you don’t care. If this is your situation—if you are depressed or apathetic—seek help. The effects of COVID are having far-reaching effects on all aspects of life for individuals who find themselves isolated and lonely, both young and old. COVID can serve as an example and a comparison of how aspects of life that affect us when young have consequences that remain with us for the rest of our lives.

0:42:21:32 Pamela D Wilson:  Younger adults may have delayed education due to caregiving responsibilities for parents. A loss of employment may have made it impossible for adults to continue to pay for ongoing education. Lower or delayed education may affect career opportunities and income.  For healthcare workers, the choice of going to work to earn income versus staying home to protect family members has been a balancing act that can add to thoughts of how to talk about getting old and not be afraid. Aging and COVID are poor combinations when adults have multiple chronic health diagnoses. How we respond to COVID may indicate how we will respond to the opportunity to change the future of our health.

0:42:16:24 Pamela D Wilson: Are you living in a state of fear? While there is good fear that may have us being cautious, there is also unrealistic fear that may be difficult to see if all we do is watch news that may be filled with negativity and fear-mongering. The people we choose to spend time with, including their habits and attitudes, affect us significantly. How to talk about getting old and not be afraid is to take the initiative to learn about what can happen through the experiences of caring for aging parents and loved ones.

0:42:54:25 Pamela D Wilson: Add to this taking an interest in health and well-being to avoid chronic diseases that have long-lasting effects, making us more susceptible to COVID and other viruses. If there are any blessings from COVID – these may include being more aware of the effect of good health habits. Other blessings may include embracing a virtual world. Meaning that we can participate in social contact with friends who may not live in the same city or a nearby town. The ability to work from home may be another blessing of COVID.

0:43:33:33 Pamela D Wilson: While we can focus on the challenges, focusing on the blessings is a better path for how to talk about getting old and not be afraid. What will it be like years from now telling your children that you survived and prospered through a worldwide pandemic? What stories will you tell? Our parents, grandparents, and family members before them survived horrific world events that we cannot begin to imagine. Life expectancy at the turn of the last century, in 1900, was between 46 and 48 years of age. A lot of people today are older than that.

0:44:16:24 Pamela D Wilson: We have more than doubled this number in the last 120 years. But this doesn’t mean that medical advancements are equally available throughout the world or that wars still don’t happen.  As Dr. Berlinger mentioned, we are living longer because of technology and other advances that extend life.  The concept of how to talk about getting old beginning in youth and not being afraid of aging can add more years to the length of time we live. Most importantly, we want these to be healthier years without memory loss, physical disability, difficulty managing day-to-day, and many of our parent’s and grandparents’ experiences today.

0:45:04:23 Pamela D Wilson: We are the future. We can change the future of our health and our retirement years. It’s up to each of us to begin taking action today. When in doubt, seek education and help.  If you are not sure what to do or how to plan to care for aging parents, help is on my website, in my online articles, caregiver courses, videos, and most of all in support that I offer to groups and corporations interested in supporting caregiving conversations. Many caregivers worry about talking to employers about caregiving responsibilities.

0:45:41:49 Pamela D Wilson: In addition to this show that can help you talk to elderly parents and family members—I’ll be happy to speak with your organizations. Share my website PamelaDWilson.com with your human resources manager or the decision-maker in your company.  Thank you for joining me on The Caring Generation – the only program of its kind connecting caregivers and aging adults worldwide to talk about caregiving, health, and everything in between.

0:46:08:94 Pamela D Wilson: Thank you so much for being a caregiver. Invite your family and friends to listen each week. I am Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, advocate, and speaker. I look forward to being with you again soon. God bless you all. Sleep well tonight. Have a fabulous day tomorrow and a great week until we are here together again.

0:46:08:94 Announcer: Tune in each week for The Caring Generation with host Pamela D. Wilson. Come join the conversation and see how Pamela can provide solutions and peace of mind for everyone here on Pamela D. Wilson’s The Caring Generation.

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©2021 Pamela D. Wilson All Rights Reserved

About Pamela Wilson

PAMELA D. WILSON, MS, BS/BA, NCG, CSA helps caregivers and aging adults solve caregiving problems and manage caregiving needs through online programs, live support groups, and an extensive caregiving library that includes articles, podcasts, videos, and webinars.

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