What would you do with....

By: RABBI RACHEL ESSERMAN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR

The post on Facebook asked: What would you do with $2 million? I was too embarrassed by my first reaction to post my answer, which was “buy into a senior center with continuum care.” For those unfamiliar with the term, continuum care centers offer everything from independent living through assisted living to a nursing home, and guarantee you a place even if your ability to function declines. I’m 62 years old with no children, so it’s not too early to start thinking about what happens if I can’t take care of a house, or take care of myself.
Many of my older friends are either facing health challenges or their spouses are in decline. When thinking about their problems, what comes to mind is that things are not going to get better. In fact, they will only get worse. That’s a really difficult thing to say to people, but it’s a truth that must be faced in order to make the difficult and painful decisions that are ahead.
Think about what this means. For example, what happens when a person can no longer drive? Should they walk to the grocery store? Even if there is a grocery store within walking distance (and there aren’t that many in Broome County), the person may no longer have the physical ability to do that. Clean the house, do the wash, bathe yourself when you can’t lift your leg to get into the tub – these are only a few of the problems we may all face. What happens if a person starts failing mentally? Then help will be needed to make certain medicine gets taken correctly, meals are prepared and eaten – the list goes on and on and on.
I’ve dealt with some of these issues – when members of my family had difficulties and as a student chaplain in a nursing home. Some people flourish in assisted living or in nursing homes; they enjoy being around people after lonely lives where they saw no one for days at a time. Others find it impossible to cope and long for familiar surroundings. There is no one way to help people because each individual may want – or rather, need – something different to feel they are still a functioning human being.
So, I think ahead for myself, but it can be difficult to plan. The biggest problem is that no one knows how long they will live. My father lived until his mid-80s. My mother turned 92 this year. On the other hand, my mother’s sister died at 56 and my father’s father died in his 60s. It’s impossible to predict what my life span will be. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking ahead and sometimes reverting to a daydream I had in college – gathering my friends in a nursing home that would be like living in the dorm we once shared. However, we are now spread over several states and they have children and spouses, so it’s unlikely that daydream would now come true. 
What will I do? I’m still not sure, although looking at some beautiful senior living centers in this area have shown they are far too pricey for me. Yet, the day may not be far off when I will have to make a decision. What I hope is to keep a positive attitude about any changes that have to be made. Like the biblical Abraham told to leave his home, seniors also face life in an unknown land.