Retirement talk is on a roll. With 10,000 Boomers turning 65 every day, no wonder. But besides advice on how to “live the life of your dreams” and have a “secure retirement” there’s some important information too few are taking about. That’s the retirement-era mistakes people make that are pretty much guaranteed to leave your family in a stressful mess if you don’t avoid them. Here at AgingParents.com, we consult with families every day. We hear about what their aging parents do and don’t do to make life stressful for the adult children. Here are the top three of numerous errors aging parents make that you, the adult child, can learn not to do yourself.
Mistake Number One: Never discuss finances with your spouse or adult kids. It’s too uncomfortable.
The problem with this is that you’re not going to live forever. To think that you can skip any revelations about what you have, where it is and how to manage it when you’re gone is foolhardy. People often have health declines before the end of life. Maybe some day you won’t be able to explain, discuss or teach anyone about your finances. What happens then is that your loved ones are under extreme stress trying to figure it out, find your records, gain access when money is needed and other pressures. All of this can be avoided. Start now. Set a date. Sit down with your responsible loved ones and lay it all out. Give them the data they would need to step in and take over for you in the event of emergency or health issues. If you indulge the Great American Fantasy that you’re going to live to be 100 in fine health without any impairment physical or mental and then die peacefully in your sleep, get over it. That is too rare to count as realistic.
Mistake Number Two: Don’t take full responsibility for your physical and mental health. It’s too much trouble to change.
Leaving your health to chance when you can control about 70% of what happens to it makes no sense. If you keep avoiding those checkups and keep ignoring whatever your doctor tells you, your health span will shorten. Someone will probably have to take care of you and they may not like it. If you don’t want to burden your family, pay attention to what you eat, how you move and take care of your body. The likelihood of good physical health increases and the likelihood of family being saddled with the results of your neglect is decreased. And your mental well being is in the mix too. Attend to managing stress and learning new things. While you’re at it, be sure you have discussed the inevitable issue of who will be empowered to make health care decisions for you at the end of life. Don’t be democratic and put everyone’s name on your advanced healthcare directive (power of attorney for health). That leads to lots of fights. Pick one trusted person who will do what you want and explain it the others in your family. You have the power to set up a document that minimizes the chance of family warfare in the hospital corridor in your last days.
Mistake Number Three: Watch a lot of TV. Lose your sense of importance and connection to other people.
You need a sense of purpose in your retirement years to stay in balance. Connection to the community in some way is also essential. Rates of depression are greater in those over 65, in part for lack of purpose in life and isolation. There’s more needed than entertainment, world travel, and golf. Purpose and community can come from family involvement, religious connection, volunteerism, and even a new kind of work. Find what is good for you. Engage, reach out, and keep things on your calendar. Feeling cut off from everything can lead to a sense of loss and sadness. Do you think it would be fun for your family to see you in a constant funk? We hear from all too many adult children who are worried about aging parents who are so depressed they don’t feel like doing anything anymore. That’s a weight t you don’t need to place on your family’s shoulders. They will feel responsible for helping you but they are limited if you don’t take preventive steps yourself.
If retirement talk for you is only about how much income you need to maintain your lifestyle, you can be sure a mess of one kind or another is brewing in the background. I hope you’ll consider the things your financial planner may not have brought up, such as these three mistakes to avoid. Be your own advisor and plan for everything you wish your aging parents had done but didn’t. That will enhance your secure retirement and your loved ones will surely appreciate it.
*Originally published here.
Dr. Mikol Davis is a committed and passionate provider of mental health services and a clinical psychologist. He has practiced in this field for 38 years and has helped hundreds of individuals and families find improved relationships and better emotional health. Over the years as many of his clients grew older, he began to focus more of his time on problems related to aging. He took special training in working with elders and now finds it to be a very satisfying part of his practice.