That’s a question I don’t even want to write, much less think about. Behind it is a core fear that no one will be there. My husband, older by a few years, statistically is unlikely to live beyond me – perish the thought. My family is comprised of stepchildren who were adults when I came into their lives and who are very much involved in their own lives. My fear tells me they won’t step up to care for me.
Certainly I have a circle of friends, many friends of varying ages, but who will be there at a time of need? Who will still be close at that precise point in the arc of my life? Who will be alive, willing, and still have the faculties to be my health advocate? With no clear answers, fear beats a worn path through my mind. I’m supposed to plan, but don’t even have a flashlight to guide my steps.
For years, I’ve been trying to live in the present moment. Plan for the future, yes, but live in the now. The practice has been invaluable in bringing joy to the present moment, in allowing me to really live my life with a capital L. And yes, I will keep living in the moment, but prudence suggests that I acknowledge the possibility that the people I’ve already designated as my advocates will not be available or able to attend to the responsibilities they’ve graciously accepted.
Since I was asked to write this blog, I’ve had conversations with some of my younger friends and they’ve volunteered to be my “family” when decisions need to be honored. They’ve also been grateful that I’ve been explicit in identifying what I do and do not want to occur when I’m in the last stages of my life. While I hate having the conversations and feel absolutely as if I’m the only person who doesn’t have a ready-made family to gather and care at the end of my life, I know I’m not alone.
Statistics show parents who are counting on their children to care for them, may be pinning their future on a false hope. Even if their children care for them deeply, in our mobile society many adult children live thousands of miles from their parents and don’t have the time or knowledge to make intelligent decisions. Many adult children are not involved in their parents’ lives.
Caregivers and professionals state that the very best thing anyone can do, whether you have children or not, is to get your own house in order. Make your decisions, communicate those decisions to your health care providers, your lawyers, accountants and friends. I’ve done those things and am now working on de-cluttering my home and making sure that I am as prepared as I can be, so that those who do rally to my side have fewer decisions to make and angst to go through.