I remember, not too long ago, on a morning when I was tired and had gone a couple of days without shaving, that when I looked in the mirror I felt I was staring directly into my father’s face.
As you age, your genetics start to match those of your parents more than you might like them to.
It occurred at a time when I was thinking a lot about my father. He was ill, he needed some support, I was wrestling with the options that were available to us as a family and I was reading a lot and asking a lot of questions.
My intention was to be of assistance to my parents in navigating the health care system – where they lived – but as time went along, and the image of my father in my mirror became a bit more haunting, I recognized I was learning for them and for my own family.
My father lived a long and reasonably healthy life. A glimpse into his senior years provides me with some insight into what my elder years might entail. After all, it is just not our image in the mirror that is similar. Obviously, we share many common genetic and lifestyle factors with our immediate family. Any doctor will start a long-term view of health risks with a clear history of parents.
I expect the issues of my father, however, might well be accelerated in me. I have lived my life with more stress than he lived his (job choices), and I have done less physical work and eaten more processed foods than he did. Whereas he developed prostate cancer at the age of 69, I developed it at the age of 57.
Still, medical advances may well give me advantages over him and, thus, it does not seem unrealistic for predictions for my lifespan to match or exceed his. That has a lot of financial planning implications.
The more I researched issues important to my parents at the crisis point of my father’s health, the more I realized I needed to make plans that would support my own care, the care of my wife and the decisions my own children might have to make.
While you can never fully prepare for medical emergencies or life changes that come unexpectedly and in complex forms, it is important to provide some kind of infrastructure, financial and decision-making, from which your family can develop a strategy at the time that things go south.
I’ve spoken about the importance of such planning before and I don’t want to repeat myself on some of the issues I’ve addressed, but I do want to suggest that a little research when you are healthy is wise and then taking some action steps sooner, rather than later, is doubly wise.
A good place to start, in thinking about various issues related to seniors, is a website of the Ministry of Health in B.C. (http://www.gov.bc.ca/health/index.html). From this site, simply click on the link to SeniorsBC and there is a wealth of information specific to issues both general to all elders, and specific to services provided for citizens of B.C.
The next time you are walking by the mirror, and notice one of your parents staring back at you, perhaps it’s time to start the research necessary to be sure that when you get to your parents’ age, you are prepared to live the best quality of life possible and to help your family at the very time they think they have to help you.
Graham Hookey writes on