“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
As aging boomers are quickly discovering, the end game of being old is a non-linear quest to preserve control against overwhelming odds. Namely, it’s the challenge of absorbing wave after wave of losses while simultaneously shoring up residual choices. Given the uncertainty and complexity of the game, what will help aging boomers succeed in their quest? Part of the answer lies in the quality of their “control assets.”
Control assets are game tools that help older adults overcome losses through tactical partnerships and recovery planning. They don’t change the game’s final outcome but they can dramatically alter the quality of the game’s experience. Control assets are best understood as essential resources and planning options that include:
1. Primary Care Physician Rapport While this seems so obvious, its importance is lost amid the complexity of healthcare networks and preferred provider options. Obviously, everyone wants a competent physician but for the final phase of life, that is not enough. You need a primary care physician (PCP) who “gets you” as control is compromised. The true asset here is rapport, that magical bond of trust and respect for being accepted as you are combined with the unfailing loyalty to stand with you to the end.
2. Power Of Attorney Rapport Who will be your voice when you can not longer speak or act for yourself? This is a sobering decision amid the complexity of choosing a suitable advocate within family systems filled with competing loyalties or opting for outside resources. Obviously, everyone one wants a competent power of attorney (POA) but for the final phase of life that is not enough. You need a POA who “gets you” and has no conflict of interest in being your voice and enforcer when control is compromised.
3. Plan B Housing Option You can’t predict when you will be knocked out of your primary residence, but there is absolute certainty is will happen at some point one way or another. It may be the steady wearing down of your functional or mental capacity or the sudden ambush of a fall, heart attack or stroke. Either way, the familiar and manageable turns irreparably sour to your occupancy; staying is no longer an option.
So you need to ponder, visualize and find a way to accept a Plan B. While not your first choice, it is still your choice. To accomplish this, you have to look deep at your options and identify what you feel you will and won’t accept. Then, ironically, you have to accept that none of this may ultimately work out as you planned. That is the nature of the aging game. You get choices without absolute guarantees. And this is where your PCP and POA become invaluable allies to help you find the best possible outcome within a given set of circumstances over which you may have little control.
4. Accurate Funding Options The game runs on money, period. It’s a self-funding play that requires an accurate inventory of your game funds, which could come from a variety of sources. This includes savings, IRAs, pensions, social security, reverse mortgages, LTCi policies, or annuities. In most cases, the amount of game funds determine the degree, quality and length of choices.
These four control assets have enormous sway over the tenor and quality of the end game. As such, they represent a quest within the quest, aging ducks that need to be in order. In general, the better the quality of these four control assets at the start of the journey, the better the odds for preserving dignity and independence. Needless to say, aging boomers are cautioned to “choose wisely.”