As a young girl, Reana Allen enjoyed visiting our adult day health program, Great Days for Seniors, at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center. Reana would come with her aunt, Lorna White, an activity coordinator in the program. “I still remember those days and how much fun I had. It made me feel like I had a second family,” says Reana. “I was surrounded by lots of people. They were like my grandpa and grandma.”
My grandfather lived to be 96-years-old, surviving mostly on red wine and M&Ms. He started smoking a pipe before World War II, and probably never saw the inside of a gym. He outlived two wives and one girlfriend, and died peacefully in his bed—without ever succumbing to an injury, illness or disability.
Many of us have a relative like this—a legendary figure who defies all odds in the race against time. And on the flip side, almost all of us have firsthand knowledge of someone on the opposite end of the spectrum – who ate all the right foods, never smoked, and exercised daily— only to die young, sometimes seemingly out of the blue.
“What matters most?” That’s a question we should all ask ourselves from time to time. And it’s one that is easy to lose sight of in the rush and routine of day-to-day life. So every now and then, it’s wise to take a fresh look at our lives and our resources—be they time, energy or money—to make sure we are dedicating them in a way that aligns with our values, preferences, and life goals.
Famed motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “effective communication is 20% what you know, and 80% how you feel about what you know.” For those facing health care decisions at the end of their lives, effectively communicating how they feel can be hard; and for those trying to do so without a voice, it can be next to impossible.
Many seniors facing end-of-life decisions are battling conditions that render them speechless, and sometimes, too weak to rely on handwritten words. For example, a person diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) may be unable to express their wishes in conventional ways due to complications related to their illness. This can be a huge challenge for the patient, the patient’s family, and the medical team charged with providing care.