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Natick - Local Town Pages

Aging Gracefully: Advice on What to do Now!

Doctors and patients have all kinds of difficult conversations. How to prepare for aging and caring for an aging partner or parent is one of those. For Lee Willis and her husband Hal, the conversation started this way: their beloved doctor of 15 years asked Lee, point-blank: “Are you prepared for the possibility that Hal may outlive you?”
At 94, Hal is ten years older than Lee. A plane accident broke multiple bones in his legs, and arthritis had settled in. Walking is hard for him. He does his own laundry and washes the dishes, but he doesn’t drive and often uses a wheelchair.
Lee, on the other hand, just bought herself a new kayak. A nine-year cancer survivor, she relieves pain with exercise, not medicine. She swims three times a week. When not caring for Hal, she’s active, traveling, and socializing.
Still, the doctor had a point: Be prepared.
Facing the Facts of Aging
Most people avoid the subject of getting old. Death is as natural as birth, but too many people
simply don’t want to think about it until they are too ill to participate in decision making, leaving family members and their physicians to make decisions that may or may not be what they would have wanted at the end of life. We need to prepare better.
Finding a Place to Age
The main goal for Lee in preparing for Hal and her own aging was to find a place that could happen. Lee didn’t just do a Google search. She visited dozens of nursing homes. She made lists of in-home care services, and visited each of those.
But Lee wasn’t satisfied, mainly because of shifting staff. “You can never guarantee the same people. The bottom-line dictates staffing. This turnover and the resulting lack in continuity of care, is a problem.”
So, she looked at the option of aging in place. She volunteered at programs of all-inclusive care for the Elderly, which offers 24/7 coverage for anyone qualified for a nursing home. It seemed like “this would probably be what we choose to do,” she said.
But then Lee discovered The Green House Project, a new model for long-term care for elders. In 2001, a doctor named Bill Thomas was appalled at the state of elder care. He saw it was a hospital, not a home with people just sitting in wheelchairs. So, he introduced a lot of changes, brought in birds, dogs, cats, and plants. But it still wasn’t enough. So, he “super-trained” staff to behave like family members, not healthcare providers. He built a new structure, with one central room, the residents living in rooms off in spokes. It became a communal place, with a common kitchen where people cook family recipes and behave like relatives.
 Lee found one in her state. “If we both have to go somewhere, this will be it!”
Aging Gracefully: How to Get Started Now
The best advice Lee’s received from her doctor: Exercise. He told her that the biggest factor that differentiates healthy from unhealthy aging is exercise—folks who remain sedentary clearly become frailer more rapidly than those who either remain or become active in their later years. Exercising on a regular basis makes a huge difference in how one ages.
Lee’s primary lessons for younger people: Be proactive. “It’s really hard when you’re 50 to think about being 80, but you should.” She advises younger people to:
•    Take your health seriously—eat well and exercise.
•    Prepare with a reputable Estate Planning Attorney who cares about your health as well as your assets.
•    Be an advocate for yourself.
•    Get political and advocate for end-of-life care.
Dennis Sullivan & Associates and its caring and compassionate team of experienced professionals support aging on your own terms. They offer FREE webinars to learn about how to protect your health, home, spouse, family, and life savings as you age and empower you to stay in control. To register for a Free Discovery Session call (781) 237-2815 or visit! You will even qualify to receive up to $2,475 in valuable benefits to update your trust and estate plans and build your own value-based legacy to guide future generations. Take control of your life. Call now!