As we get older, our needs and desires change. We know what we want, our preferences, dislikes, what makes us feel comfortable, etc. Do other people really know and understand what matters most to us? Do caretakers and family members know the wishes of those closest to them? What is it that most people want others to know as they age?
Kurt Kazanowski is author of “A Son’s Journey: Taking Care of Mom and Dad.” He has more than 30 years of experience in senior and hospice care. He says that what someone truly wants later in life can vary from person to person, but in general, there are many similarities he’s noticed from all the patients he has worked with.
Kurt’s top 10 list of what people want you to know as they get older:
We don’t want you to baby us: While it’s true that as we age many of us need some help with things like climbing steps or bending down to pick things up, our independence is very important to us. You don’t need to do every little thing for us. We will ask for help when we need it.
We want you to spend more time with us: We remember what it was like to be young, active and out exploring the world with friends, but we want you to come visit us frequently and spend time with us, too. We thrive on hearing about your adventures, successes and failures. Whether we can get out for a short walk or meal, or simply sit and spend time with you, it’s all meaningful and appreciated.
We thrive on memories: We love to recount the good old days. Looking back at old photos and sharing memories touches our hearts, invigorates our spirit and puts a smile on our face. When you take the time to listen to our stories no matter how many times you’ve heard them before, it makes us feel good.
Please respect our wishes: As we get older and perhaps have to face more medical challenges, please respect our wishes. We are always open to your thoughts and opinions, but it’s our life, our body and we want you to always respect our decision even if you disagree.
We are not invisible: Occasionally, people act as if we’re not present. Just because our physical ability might be limited in some cases, many of us are as with it as we’ve ever been upstairs. We are fully aware of what’s going on. We hear what people say. We have not lost our mental abilities. Please include us in things and not separate us from what’s going on.
We want nothing but happiness for you: As we get up there in years, we realize that happiness really is everything. Money, material possessions and having a high-ranking job are all superficial. The only thing that matters in this life is being happy as much as you can.
We want you to know that laughter is the best medicine: We don’t like to see you stressed out or upset, and by now, we’ve learned to role with the punches. Sometimes you can’t control the world around you, but you can control your response to it. We want you to stop taking things so seriously and have a good laugh at your own expense from time to time.
We prefer to spend our final days at home: When the end is near, we don’t want to be laid up in a hospital bed hooked up to machines. We are most comfortable in our own home and bed surrounded by the people who are nearest and dearest to us.
We don’t want our passing to sadden you or make things more difficult: Keep us deep in your hearts and honor our memory. Share stories about us with younger generations and pass down the traditions we passed down to you. We don’t want you to fight over inheritance or anything else.
Don’t ever say ‘I wish I had:’ Live the life that’s in front of you to the fullest. Regrets and lost opportunities will never reappear. So when the opportunity comes knocking, walk through the door even if you feel scared, intimidated, unsure and confused by what awaits you.