CIESIELSKI: Ready or Not? Creating a plan to age with dignity

May 25, 2021

What would you want to see happen if you could no longer care for yourself?

Who would take care of you, and what are your wishes to make this happen?

These tough questions remind me of what we, as Houstonians, face each spring regarding hurricane and flood preparedness.

Having faced enough major storms in recent years, we take such preparation seriously. When we have had interim periods without major storms, it can become easier to grow complacent and be less prepared.

Similarly, today with modern medicine being able to extend our quality of life and life span, it may be tempting to ignore preparation for this slower but inevitable physical and cognitive decline. We can try to compensate for such changes, but without adequate preparations, we may find ourselves overwhelmed without the means in place when we most need them.

As Jesus in His dying moments was mindful of passing on care for His mother to His beloved disciple, we, as a community of faith, are likewise called to work together to support our loved ones and community members as they age. The planning process starts with us acknowledging our mortality and limitations as human beings. When we do that, we can free ourselves from the trappings of fear and anxiety that interfere with our willingness to discuss these concerns and plan accordingly.

A senior I know brought this home for me recently when he shared some of his and his wife’s End-of-Life care plan, which they had gradually developed over the past 30 years. He mentioned that he and his wife first created a trust for his children (years later revised to a will). They added powers of attorney for financial and medical decisions and created medical advance directives if they ever lacked the capacity to make those decisions.

He also developed a household inventory that documented valued purchases along with a list of passwords for their personal computer.

They made funeral and final interment arrangements on a payment plan and even added choices for the music at their funerals. Most importantly, they took time to share their wishes and documents with their trusted loved ones.

He noted that one of the primary motivating factors for their planning was to spare their children the problems that they had observed with some families who had lost loved ones but had not done any planning.

The Office of Aging offers a variety of comprehensive planning resources on its webpage to address the temporal and spiritual realities that accompany the aging process.
In addition, the office is available to consult with parish leaders and senior groups to determine appropriate forums for education to help address their needs.

For more information, contact Mark Ciesielski at mciesielski@archgh.org or 713-741-8712 or view the Office of Aging webpage resources for Caregiving, Aging in Place, or End-of-Life Care at https://www.archgh.org/aging. †


Mark Ciesielski is an associate director in the Office of Aging.