April showers

ACCIDENTAL SAFARI; a guide for navigating the challenges that come with aging

If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?


Did that children’s humor bring a surprising smile? Spring is in the air. That means birds singing and flowers blooming and trees budding. For some, it is the glorious announcement of the next season of life. For others, however, spring heralds the arrival of allergy season with its accompaniment of runny noses, itchy eyes and fits of coughing. Whether you are a miserable allergy sufferer or a happy birdwatcher, the change of season comes nonetheless.

This week a client told me of his parents, who in their seventies, built their dream home and now “20 years later, in their nineties, they are still enjoying it!” This same week I helped a client place her 58-year-old husband, who has early onset Alzheimer’s disease, into a memory care facility.

Like the seasons, life’s changes are inevitable. Change may come softly and slowly over many long years like a gentle steady breeze. It can also come with little warning like a roaring hurricane or suddenly as a raging fire.

Let me offer a few tips to consider in the area of inevitable personal changes:

Be READY. RECOGNIZE the change when it comes. RESPOND appropriately and timely to the change.

I am told that if you begin taking allergy medicine in February in preparation for the allergy season that begins in March, you will fair much better. Your body will have had the chance to build up some resistance to the coming challenge of pollen. If you wait until you are symptomatic to start medicating, it’s like trying to hold back a waterfall. Unfortunately, if I am giving you that tip in May, it is not much help this year, but maybe next February it could help.

There are actions you can take now to prepare for the challenges that come with aging by preparing your home, your estate plan and your health and exercise regiment.

Sadly, there are many changes in life that are not seasonal and therefore not as easily recognizable as trees in the pollen stage. Because these unanticipated changes are not recognizable until they are upon you, it is difficult, if not impossible, to be prepared.

Take the 58-year-old Alzheimer’s patient. Did he or his family have advance warning of the coming crisis? Did his parents have dementia issues? Were there any other signs that may have prompted him to consider long-term care insurance at 50? This is not a commercial for long-term care insurance, but it is a challenge to be pragmatic and diligent.

As an estate planning attorney, I have had people with a terminal progressive disease contact me days before their death to prepare their will or power of attorney. Why didn’t they call me months earlier? I understand that there is usually a denial stage that can paralyze an appropriate response to the challenge of your changing circumstances. That is why getting ready when you can, before the hurricane or even the gentle breeze, can reduce or eliminate some needed action steps during the actual crisis.

Where are you today? Is a major life change for yourself or someone you love just a distant white cloud on the sunny horizon or is one even now a storm cloud beating down the door? If so, help is available. Don’t go through the storm alone. We are made to be connected in a community. Your personal faith and the support of family, friends, and professionals can be a light in the darkness. Reach out and have meaningful conversations about the issues you are dealing with.

The habit of developing faith and friends is a good place to start, or continue, to prepare for the change that is invariably coming.