Who Will Protect Us From Ourselves?

Today, my wife’s grandmother passed away. While she lived to be almost 91 years old, I can’t help but have the feeling that her passing was needless. She had spoken with the neighbor, who had told my wife’s grandmother that she loved bananas in her cereal for breakfast. My grandmother had an extra bunch of bananas and offered to take them to her neighbor the next morning.

When the next morning came, my wife’s grandmother had overslept. She wanted to keep her promise, so she got up in a hurry to get the bananas to take to her neighbor. In a rush, she fell, and she broke her femur in the process. She had surgery to repair the break, but never recovered, and a month later, she passed.

My great grandmother passed in a similar fashion. She was 95 and lived in an assisted living home. Every day, my great uncle would come to take her to lunch. One day, it was particularly pretty outside, and she decided that she would meet him out at the front rather than waiting for him to come get her. On her way out, she fell and bruised her hip. While there was no break, the bruise was big enough that it compromised her immune system, and she caught pneumonia within a week and then passed away.

Neither had to happen. I realize that both of them were elderly and probably didn’t have too many years left. Still, a 59 cent bunch of bananas and a five minute wait were the root of what I think are early demises.

I know my wife’s grandmother’s neighbor feels horrible, like she’s the cause of what transpired, and she’s not. It’s human nature to feel guilt over a situation like that.

Both of them were probably in a bit of denial over their actual capabilities.

When you’re in your nineties, such fine errors really can mean life or death.

I worry about it with my parents. Will they know when they’re no longer capable of being independent? Will they admit it? I live halfway across the country from them, so I won’t be able to see the day-to-day changes. Regardless, I won’t be the one to make the decision. They will almost invariably have to.

I worry about it myself. As it is, I think I can do more than I really can, and the aches and pains of overexertion remind me that I’m not the limber, lithe, agile 21 year old I once was.

When the time comes, will I be able to face up to my limitations and give up independence?

I hope I can, but fear that I won’t. Maybe I’ll remember this feeling now and stop myself before I make a similar mistake.

About Jason Hull, CFP®

Jason Hull, CFP®, is the Chief Technology officer of myFinancialAnswers, an online comprehensive financial planning service.

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