Think ahead

Think ahead till the end

“Think a step ahead!” One of my old colleagues used to say it all the time and she was extremely proud to be at least one step ahead of everyone else. Indeed, thinking ahead can have numerous advantages as colleagues, friends and I have discovered over the years.

What’s your overall goal?

Just like in project management, break your goal down into smaller pieces. This makes even the biggest goal digestible and a lot easier to tackle. By breaking it down, you’re also required to think ahead. What dependencies do you have? What deadlines do you need to meet?

If you’re moving into a new apartment but haven’t activated the electricity, your frozen food will thaw, there’s no TV/wifi and who knows whether your hot shower would work after that long day.

Most of our activities and goals are for a short to medium timeframe.

It’s not always that obvious.

Looking at something, let’s say 20 years from now, is a very different story. Think of your retirement provisions. What? You’ve never thought of how to finance your non-working life? You’re not alone. Thinking of retirement and then even doing something for it has to be one of the most avoided activities.

Why? Easy! Retirement is for many of us far away. I’m thinking of working for probably 25 more years, though I’m not sure whether I always want to work full-time.

It also means admitting that we’re getting older, our health may be declining and we won’t be able to do all the things we wanted to do. Acknowledging that walking becoming more difficult is far easier than also admitting that your body is no longer that of your 20-year-old self.

My friends and I talked about our aging parents this weekend. While they are in good spirits, we, the children, are starting to look more and more after them. Carrying heavier items like the 6x 1.5 litre bottles or doing their general grocery shopping are done more frequently. Luckily, we also have internet shopping and delivery services making it a lot easier. They’re also great if you don’t live near your parents.

What about the barriers in our homes?

One of my friends also shared her story. 2 years ago, she moved her parents from their home, which was less than an hour away, to almost next door to her. Sounds easy enough, right? No, there was nothing easy and fortunately, my friend had thought of various options and anticipated various obstacles in advance. The biggest change: Her parents’ health is decreasing and their mobility is becoming much more an issue.

My friend had already anticipated the need for a barrier-free apartment and opted for an apartment on ground floor. The inside has been designed barrier-free. The bathroom has a walk-in shower where a chair can be placed, in addition to the traditional bath tube. Doors are wide enough for a wheelchair, if ever needed. Kitchen workspaces can be remodelled as needed. Furniture has been chosen to be comfortable and yet, giving space and support for limited mobility.

The end.

Walking past a funeral home, I told my mom I wanted to be cremated and put in a bio-degradable urn. I’m not sure why neither of us cried. That’s normally how our conversations about death went. Still, over the years, we’re more at ease with the topic. Death will show up one day and at least, we know what she wants.

Thinking ahead about the end is hard. It’s definite. For the deceased, it’s easy. They’re gone (unless they believe in an afterlife). For those left behind, that’s where it’s painful.

Preparing for the end can come in many different ways. At home, we’re going through some of the belongings and are decluttering now. Don’t get me wrong. We’re not throwing things out which are fine. We’re decluttering and organising according to what’s being used and enjoyed. The 50 blurred photographs will be thrown out at some stage. Why not do it now and gain space now? Space, my mom enjoys. For us kids, it’s one act less of painfully deciding what and how to keep it. It’s a win-win.

We don’t often think about the unexpected and/or slow end. What if you or a loved one were hit by a car and have been in a coma for the last months? Or you or a loved one are suffering from an incurable illness? A living will allows you to state your wishes for end-of-life medical care, in case they are unable to communicate these decisions. Created with your lawyer, you can document what possible end-of life care you want: Resuscitation, tube feeding, comfort/palliative care to name just a few. You can also assign power of attorney to your spouse, another family member or someone else and have them make the decision for you, if you can’t.

Have you ever thought of getting a will and determining who’ll get which possession of yours? A few years ago, I had set up my own will and it was an odd feeling at the time. My financials will be distributed amongst my loved ones. That was an easy decision. I don’t care who of my loved ones will get which material piece. If they’ll argue, the executor of my will can sort it out. Looking back now, it was one of the best things as I know it’s sorted!

How do you plan and think ahead? Do you ever work with timeframes of 10, 20 or 40 years ahead? What was your biggest struggle? I’d love to hear how you’re planning and heading ahead!

Until next time,

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