In The Driver’s SeatBy Tammy Hauck
What’s wrong with being in control, I ask you? As I began research for this article, the majority of information I found was on how to gain control of my need to control. I learned that I am a closet control freak. I found humorous quips such as “I’m not really a control freak but… can I show you the right way to do that?” “As long as everything is exactly the way I want it, I’m totally flexible.” Then there’s my personal favorite: “I hate it when I plan my day and nobody follows the script.” And if you don’t think you fall into control freak category, let me put you in the passenger seat with a bad driver… then you will realize how much you really need to be in the driver’s seat.
The Covid pandemic brings the reality of control home to us. Guidelines pertaining to managing the spread of the disease are discussed daily and made available to anyone within reach of social media – yet stories prevail about Covid parties and other senseless, risky behaviors. We find that we can control ourselves and our own behavior, but are helpless to control others. We’ve learned much about what we can and can’t control during this part of life’s journey.
Lists abound with all the things you cannot control: bad news, the weather, the traffic, the seasons, other people’s emotions, the past, the future… a wise woman once told me that while I cannot always control life’s circumstancs, I can control my response to them. As with any trip, we map and we plan, we change direction occasionally due to an accident or an opportunity, and we eventually reach a destination. I remind myself that while I am in the driver’s seat, I can determine the direction my journey will take in many, many ways, particularly in the aging process.
At the top of my “Things I Can’t Control About Aging List” is aging itself; the only alternative to not aging is… well, I certainly don’t want to write that down. I can take excellent care of my skin, but a wrinkle will eventually appear. Next on my list is admitting that while I can do things that impact my health such as diet, exercise, medical care, etc., I must face the inevitable fact that my health will change as I age. I take a timeout to remind myself that aging is an amazing gift, and not one to be taken for granted.
It’s at this point that I take my head out of the sand for a brief period of time and admit there are decisions I need to make while I am still in the driver’s seat. Working in a continuing care retirement community has certainly taught me the advantages of preplanning, making good choices and setting myself up for the best life possible. It has also made me aware of options that I hadn’t considered.
The first thing I did was make of list of questions:
- What is my vision for my retirement?
- How much money do I need to implement my vision?
- How do I begin to educate my spouse and align our separate, and sometimes different
- Is my living environment appropriate for me as I age?
- Can I manage the upkeep of my home and property?
- How do I downsize?
- Do I need long term care insurance or do I have enough money to take care of my
- Do I remain in my home or do I choose to move to a retirement community?
- How do I find out about retirement community options and what pairs with my interests?
- Who is going to represent me if the time comes that I am unable to speak for myself?
- WHO WILL CHOOSE MY NURSING HOME? How do I plan for asset protection AND
peace of mind?
- How do I make sure that I am not a burden to my family and friends?
The people that live in my community have answered all these questions; they have chosen a path that will enable them to live their best life. They have chosen their future long term care provider. They have protected their assets. They have downsized and right-sized, and have put their plans in place. They have done what they can to ensure that they remain husband and wife, parent and child instead of caregiver and recipient. They are independent, active, motivated, social, and so much more. Our residents compare our community to a docked cruise ship (pre-COVID). They have a community that supports their choices by providing activities and entertainment, multiple dining venues, a stimulating environment, education suited to their interests – all this and with support nearby as needs change, including healthcare centers, therapy on site, a wellness clinic, and an on-site agency that can provide help in your home for as little as 30 minutes in a day.
Our residents have made their decisions for their retirement while being in the driver’s seat. One resident stated it beautifully when told she was too young for the community: “WHAT?!?! I’m too young to roll out of bed, throw my robe on and go for laps in the pool? I’m too young to have my choice of art or exercise class or reading on the veranda outside our library with a gorgeous views of ponds and bridges? I’m too young to have a gym or indoor pool or beautifully landscaped walking paths just steps away from my beautiful apartment? I’m too young to have my meals prepared or to garden only when I want to, or to have my apartment cleaned for me? I’m too young to be treated like a queen? I DON’T THINK SO!”
So I encourage you to take a moment and do a self-evaluation. I ask myself daily about how I want to live and if today I will make healthy choices. I ask myself about decisions that I am avoiding or delaying and why. I ask myself about lasting impressions and the mark I want to leave on this world, knowing THAT is completely within my control. I update my positive list of what I can control going forward: my diet, my exercise routine, but more importantly my mindset, my work ethic, my volunteer choices, the way I treat others (including my words), how do I allow others to treat me, and probably the most significantly, what type of example will I set. These are the things that affect not only my emotional wellbeing but the spirit of those around me. These things determine my mark on the world–while I am in the driver’s seat.
Each day we make decisions, including the choice to NOT make one. So ask yourself what
decisions will you wish you had made while you were in control.