Who will take care of us when we’re old?

Have you ever asked yourself: Who will take care of me when I’m old?

  • Do you assume it will be your kids? (Which kids?)
  • Do your kids also assume it will be them?
  • Is that really what you all want?
  • Do you even have kids?

And what all is included in “taking care of you”, anyway? Are we talking housing-wise? Medically? Financially? Socially?

I think about these things precisely because I DON’T have kids, and the relatives I live near are aging and childless as well. Uh oh, what if they expect ME to take care of THEM?!?!?

Do you know there's lots you can do to prepare yourself for happy senior years? And ways to discuss this with your family that are enjoyable? Share on X

No way around talking about it

I’ve suggested in the past that we talk with our families about death. But I’ll grant you, it’s often easier said than done. And there’s usually a whole lotta living that happens before death! Fortunately my family doesn’t squirm and shut down at the idea of discussing funeral plans and such. Take these blog posts, for example:

Talking about death won’t kill you, LOL!

Planning my virtual funeral – who’s with me?

You can, I suppose, live your whole life without talking about aging or dying. But not usually without someone feeling burdened, or neglected, or surprised when an unanticipated need arises, or at a loss for what to do in a difficult situation.

Framework for discussion

Even if your family is willing, any single discussion can only cover a tiny portion of what it means to be getting older and possibly needing help. What if there were a framework to help facilitate such discussions?

I found just such a framework!

It’s a book called Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old? by Joy Loverde. (Thanks for the recommendation, Susan Lannis!)

Click the link to the Amazon page, and then click the “Read sample” button under the cover image to see the chapter titles. (NOTE: Although I love audiobooks, I do not recommend this one. There were way too many tediously-spelled-out urls right off the bat for me to imagine listening to the whole book that way.)

Family book club

My local family members — my brother, my aunt, and I — already meet for breakfast most Saturday mornings. So, I thought, rather than just suggest the book to them, or give them copies and hope they read it, why not have a little family book club? We could read just a chapter at a time, so it wouldn’t feel burdensome, and discuss it over breakfast.

So we did!

We’re not quite finished — there are 16 chapters — but we’re close enough for me to report on it. Miracle of miracles, there has been no push-back on reading the chapters or discussing them. I think we all recognized it as a good way to raise topics without picking on any one of us for not having done something yet (like create an advance directive for health care) and a good way to learn about things we hadn’t thought about yet (like how to access all the senior services available to us locally).

Homework

There is no book club homework other than reading the assigned chapter. But the book itself contains lots of resources, ways to find more resources, checklists and worksheets.

There have been a few chapters that don’t apply to all of us equally, but for the most part they do apply, or we can see that they might in the future. And, as we have realized and discussed, now we know where to find resources in the event that one of the chapters we paid less attention to becomes important to us.

We usually wait until we’re finished eating and catching up. And then we only spend about 15 minutes discussing the chapter. There’s usually something about each chapter that catches our interest, and we compare notes. If someone says, “I haven’t done that yet,” or, “I’m not ready to do that,” we don’t give them a hard time about it.

It’s up to each of us to do the things we think are important in our own time, or ask for help.

I think the things are more likely to happen, though, if we’ve discussed them and they’re top of mind. More so than if we never discussed or read about them at all.

It’s a trick question

So, who will take care of you when you’re old? Well, as you may have guessed, and as I suspected going in, no matter what kind of a support system you have, and how many loved ones, it’s ultimately up to YOU to make your remaining years good ones. Even the blurb on the back of the book says, “Everything you need to know to be your own best caregiver.”

And it’s not too early — or too late — to think about it! The quality of your life depends not only on having made (flexible) plans for where and how you want to live, but on remaining social (or becoming at least a little bit social if you never were before), and taking care of your mental and spiritual health, as well as your physical and financial health.

Speaking for my family, I think we all feel a little better now about what we need to do and how each other is situated. We also have our next readings selected (and it wasn’t my idea!): My aunt has a couple of policies (including one for long term care) that she does not really understand and we are all going to read them and compare notes on what we think they mean and how we might get more information if we need it.

Related reading

 

Who do you think will take care of YOU when you get old?

Does your family talk about such things?

Might you consider reading the book and sharing it with your family?

Might you consider starting a family book club?

Let us know by leaving a comment below!

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13 Comments

  1. Seana Turner on June 17, 2024 at 7:26 am

    I think this is a brilliant way to get discussion started on a potentially touchy subject. By reading a book, you take yourself out of the position of having to direct conversation of force people to talk about specifics they may want to avoid. It’s like having a mediator, in a way, who keeps the conversation going.

    You also matched up the conversation with fun and social time, making the whole process pleasant instead of just a chore.

    I haven’t read this book, but you have me interested! I love the point that ultimately it comes down to us taking care of ourselves as best we can, putting the plans in place for the future. Super!

    • Hazel Thornton on June 17, 2024 at 8:27 am

      Exactly. I love when my readers make points I wasn’t quite able to articulate! Thanks, Seana.

  2. Linda Samuels on June 17, 2024 at 8:26 am

    Thank you for sharing this book and encouraging us, too. Death and aging aren’t things anyone enjoys thinking about. Yet, as you said, they’re going to happen. They ARE happening. No one gets out of this life alive.

    While we’ve done some planning, legal prep, and thinking about how we’ll age, there are so many unknowns. My grandparents had quick, relatively easy later years and deaths. While our parents (mine and my in-laws) were more complex and extended.

    I will definitely get this book. It seems like a great guide for clarifying your needs, taking responsibility for the inevitable, and opening up a deeper conversation with my spouse and kids.

  3. Jonda Sue Beattie on June 17, 2024 at 9:19 am

    Great topic and one that I am currently pursuing. One of the things I am doing is putting together a NOKBOX -https://www.thenokbox.com/ – for both me and my husband so that our children won’t have to scramble finding important documents and will also know our wishes. Actually, it was my daughter-on-law who pointed this product out to me.
    I have always worked on being financially independent so hopefully I won’t need care there.
    Thanks for sharing another great resource.

    • Hazel Thornton on June 21, 2024 at 8:57 am

      I, too, purchased a NOKBOX! (Haven’t implemented it yet.) It’s not that other systems are bad, and that I haven’t had success using them, but I guess I outgrew binders while still wanting something physical to supplement digital repositories.

  4. Julie Bestry on June 17, 2024 at 2:36 pm

    This is fabulous! Your family is really being smart by reviewing and sharing these issues now. It’s hard for people to discuss!

    Thus far, when my mom has needed us, it’s been a matter of my sister and I taking turns going up to New York for serious medical issues (and running interference with doctors/hospitals) but for ongoing help, she’s got a fabulous aide/buddy and long term care insurance (though those policies are so opaque and hard to comprehend, and they insist on using user-unfriendly verbiage). My sister and I are more of a mystery. I read the book and tried to figure out how I could implement suggested ideas and just got depressed about being single (after having long since been cool with it). Onward!

    • Hazel Thornton on June 21, 2024 at 9:05 am

      Thanks, Julie! I’ll admit that aging is a scary proposition for us singletons. But I know plenty of folks who don’t want to burden their kids, or whose kids aren’t especially capable or helpful, who could also use this information!

  5. Alison on June 21, 2024 at 11:48 am

    Thanks for raising this important topic Hazel, and for the simple gameplan.

    • Hazel Thornton on June 22, 2024 at 8:22 am

      Thanks for chiming in, Alison!

  6. Janet Barclay on June 24, 2024 at 6:32 am

    This is honestly not something I’ve ever thought about. Thank you for raising my awareness and recommending a book, which I’ve placed on my Want to Read list. I was happy to notice that they have the ebook at my public library!

    • Hazel Thornton on June 24, 2024 at 9:03 am

      So, not all of the chapters will apply to you (to anyone) but at least you can familiarize yourself with some of the issues and know where to get more insight and resources in the future!

  7. Christy on June 24, 2024 at 10:39 am

    Thank you for sharing this book and how you’ve leveraged it to encourage productive conversations around topics most people avoid. You definitely have me interested in getting this book and starting a family book club. Thank you!

    • Hazel Thornton on June 24, 2024 at 10:50 am

      Hi Christy! I’d love to know if you really start a family book club and how it goes!

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