We know we will die someday, so we must accept and plan for it
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(This article was written as a part of The Op-Ed Project.)
While we may fear meeting death alone, most of us are actually more afraid of dying surrounded by the wrong kind of people — that is, by health care workers.
Yet that is all too likely to be our fate. Statistics are squirrely, but many point in this direction. Seven out of 10 Americans express the wish to die at home. More than 80 percent of patients say they want to avoid hospitalization and intensive care at the end of life. And yet, the current reality is that about three-quarters of us actually die in some kind of institutional setting.
What is the source of this disconnect? As someone who has spent most of the last 15 years grappling with loved ones’ life-threatening illnesses and deaths (and co-authored a book on the topic), I’ve come to the conclusion that it starts with our attitudes — with our failure to recognize that our births guarantee our deaths.
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Tips for making your time there as painless as possible
Any hospital stay can be a revelation. When it’s totally unexpected, the experience can be even more fraught with surprises. I speak from personal experience and have some advice based on it.
Last year, I had pain severe enough to require a middle-of-the-night visit to the ER. It turned out to be kidney stones — stones that felt like boulders and required an invasive procedure (a ureteroscopy) to view, measure and then zap them into dust. Star Wars inside my body while I was out cold.
The procedure was performed at a great hospital. I had a great specialist. It all went well.
Even so, as I was recovering, I realized just how important it is to be prepared for a medical emergency that requires hospitalization. What if the searing pain was a symptom of something far more serious — something that rendered me unconscious or otherwise incapacitated, such as what follows a stroke? What about an injury while I was out bike riding or a car accident?
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New possibilities for older adults produce dividends for all
Editor’s note: This article is part of Next Avenue’s 2015 Influencers in Aging project honoring 50 people changing how we age and think about aging. Paul H. Irving was a member of the 2015 Influencers In Aging Advisory Panel.
Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Encore.org, offers an insightful observation about the promise and potential of longer lives. “Thousands of baby boomers each day surge into their 60s and 70s,” he wrote in a recent article for The Wall Street Journal. “It’s time to focus on enriching lives, not just lengthening them; on providing purpose and productivity, not just perpetuity.”
While population aging brings health, financial and social risks, an understanding of the opportunities is emerging. At the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging, we study, convene, report on and respond to these risks and opportunities, searching for solutions to bring beneficial change. Joining with others who share our vision, we believe that it’s time to challenge conventional wisdom and established norms — that new possibilities for older adults hold promise for strengthening societies, expanding economies and improving life for all ages.
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Follow these rules now to prevent a family war later
It is your worst nightmare. You’ve passed away, and now your adult children no longer speak to each other. Circumstances around your death have destroyed the family you spent your life building. As the CEO and co-founder of Executor.org, I’ve seen this all too often.
But this terrible scenario is preventable, if you plan properly.
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Cautionary words from a Next Avenue Influencer In Aging
(Editor’s Note: This article is part of Next Avenue’s 2015 Influencers in Aging project honoring 50 people changing how we age and think about aging.)
There are many uncertainties in retirement. For example, we don’t know how long we are going to live, what the interest rates will be or how the stock market will behave. But one thing is nearly certain: our health will decline as we age.
That means at some point, most of us will face serious functional limitations and, in the event of serious health shocks, maybe even permanent disability. As a result, a large number of older Americans might require professional medical care at home or in institutions such as nursing homes. But there is a lack of awareness about the risk of long-term care because of two big misconceptions surrounding the topic.
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