I have a friend who is around 75 years of age. Her husband is 10 years older than her. I’m going to refer to them as Jane and Andrew. They are in the process of a divorce after 35 years of marriage. Up until a year ago, they adored each other. But life doesn’t always move in the direction we think it will. Growing older can present unexpected challenges.

Over the years, Andrew experienced numerous health issues. Jane was always there for him and was his advocate. A few years ago, he started having mobility issues and fell several times in their home resulting in hospitalizations. Around the same time, he also began experiencing mild dementia. Meanwhile, Jane was healthy and active (she still played softball).

Jane, unable to provide the level of care Andrew needed, researched and interviewed the nearby assisted living facilities. Her thought was he could live in the facility with 24 hour care. And she would visit him daily and bring him home during the day several times a week.

Andrew objected initially, but eventually agreed to move into an assistant living facility. Jane thought everything was fine. She visited him daily even though he was sometimes hostile towards her. Several times, he even walked away from the facility. On one occasion, he threw himself to the ground and yelled to those around him that she pushed him even though she was several feet away. Remember, he not only has mobility issues, he also has dementia.

After a couple of weeks in the facility, Andrew ‘escaped’ with the help of his brother who lives nearby. I’ll refer to the brother as John. John is a retired lawyer. After ‘breaking’ Andrew out of the assisted living facility, John immediately took Andrew to a lawyer and drew up legal documents granting him, the brother, all power (legal, medical, etc.). John then took Andrew to John’s home to live. As a result, of Andrew’s change in legal directives, Jane also consulted a lawyer.

Andrew lived with John at John’s home for about a month. During that time, Andrew was hospitalized twice as a result of falling. After a month, John no longer wanted Andrew to live with him, and Andrew moved back to the home that Andrew and Jane had shared for 15 years. Jane hired a home health assistant for $17 an hour or over $12,000 a month. On the advice of her lawyers, Jane moved into a nearby rental home. After paying for one month of home health, Andrew decided that it was too expensive and moved into another assisted living facility. Andrew has now been at that facility for several months, and Jane has since moved back into their home. But she visits Andrew only rarely. Her lawyers have advised her to keep her distance till the divorce is final which should occur soon.

So, why am I telling you about Andrew and Jane? I don’t really know, other than it’s a horribly sad way for two people who truly loved each other to live out their golden years. A little bit of me says be careful if you find yourself in a relationship with someone much older than yourself. Your partner could become dependent on you both physically and mentally, and you should be prepared. Another part of me is saddened by the number of people inflicted with dementia related diseases and mobility issues as they get older. I also am disturbed that another family member, Andrew’s brother John, involved himself in the situation for selfish reasons. Once the divorce is final, should John outlive his brother, which is very likely, he will inherit a substantial amount.

Though my family doesn’t have a history of dementia or Alzheimer’s, I donate regularly to Alzheimer’s research at Mayo Clinic. I think it’s a very cruel disease, and I want researchers to find the prevention and/or cure. If your family hasn’t been impacted by dementia or Alzheimer’s, read Still Alice by Lisa Genova or watch the movie to see the devastating effects.

Be sure your estate is in order. I don’t have kids to ‘take care of me’, and even if you do, your kids may not want to or be able to care for you. I have a revocable trust that spells out what happens to me and my estate if I become incapacitated or die. If you’re able to, purchase long term care insurance even if you’re young. I bought my policy in my early 40’s. In today’s insurance market, earlier is better.

Eating a healthy diet that focuses on plants and exercising regularly can help prevent or delay dementia related diseases and mobility issues. Read my previous post about the book, The Telomere Effect, for more information about aging. Take up yoga and meditation. Read The Blue Zones Solutions by Dan Buettner. He has written several books regarding the Blue Zones which are communities around the world where people live extraordinarily long lives. There are many resources available today on the web or at your nearby book store about healthy aging, dementia and Alzheimer’s, and mobility.

We should consider many of the challenges of growing older before they occur and do what we can to avoid or delay them. The younger we are when we begin putting some of these measures into action, the better our golden years hopefully will be.

I’ve often said I want to live to be 100 but only if I have my mind and my mobility. Here’s to another 41 years!

Photo by Nathália Bariani on Unsplash