Many older adults find their attention drawn to caring for the future. Age makes it clear that our lives are finite. We also recognize that there are things we can do to contribute, beyond our actual time here on earth.
A natural part of the aging process is to review one’s life. That usually involves looking at accomplishments. But it can also include looking at regrets and making amends. Some of us go further and share or invest in projects that will live on after we are gone.
Below are some activities you might consider as you think about your own legacy.
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Conduct a life review
A life review can be done at any age. It simply helps to take a few steps back and put your life into perspective.
Public or private?
Some people wish to share their reviews with family or friends. Others view it as an immensely personal exercise. Making it a private project may allow you to delve deeper without needing to adjust your thoughts based on the expectations of others.
Many options There’s no “right” medium for a life review:
Writing. This can be done as a private reflection, or for others to read. The advantage is that you can do it at any time you are inspired to dip into your review process.
Audio recording. This medium allows for more spontaneous expression. You won’t get hung up on concerns like spelling or grammar.
Video. This can be very meaningful for sharing your thoughts with family, friends, and perhaps generations not yet old enough to have this type of conversation with you. At the same time, it does include an element of performance that can be limiting or distracting.
There are pros and cons to each medium. It’s your choice which one feels right for you.
One option is to create a memoir, starting at the beginning and moving chronologically through your life. You certainly can do this. And there are even online services that will let you upload photos and publish a small book. But people who write memoirs often get bogged down in detail. Or they hit a rough spot in their life and it’s hard to push past it. Memoirs can be fascinating to share. But they can also become overwhelming.
A review A review is a much shorter project. Consider thinking about the top 5 crossroads or challenges in your life
What were the forces at play in your life at that time?
What did you learn from the decisions you made?
What are your proud of?
What have you thought about in terms of roads not taken?
“Good judgement is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgement.”
— Mark Twain, author
All families have conflict now and then.
Simply put, families are messy. And everyone has things they wish they had done differently, with family and friends. Perhaps in their work life as well. Part of the aging process involves reflection about the past, and sometimes regret for the way things turned out.
Lessons from the end-of-life
A staggering number of families have members who don’t talk to each other and haven’t for years. In the face of a terminal diagnosis, however, those grudges often feel small compared to never seeing each other again. Hospice professionals regularly witness families who forgive each other “at the end” and deeply regret all the time they lost as a family and cannot reclaim.
Asking for forgiveness Why wait for a terminal diagnosis? If in a review of your life, you realize there are things you would like to be forgiven for, consider these insights from the Stanford Forgiveness project:
Be vulnerable and truly acknowledge the action you regret. It is not weakness to admit that you did something you wish you hadn’t. It takes a strong person to admit an error in judgment.
Apologize with empathy. “I’m sorry” may work. But what truly creates connection is to express your understanding of the impact of your actions on the other person.
Ask for forgiveness and listen. An apology is a one-way communication. By specifically asking for forgiveness and asking how you might make amends, you begin to rebuild trust. This does not mean you have to do whatever they request. But if you can, that speaks volumes. Often simply listening without defenses is enough.
Say “Thank you.” Forgiveness conversations often end on a very sweet note. They usually involve tears and sacrifices or giving on both sides. Acknowledge that gift as a way to lay the foundation for a new reconciled relationship.
Extending forgiveness It may be that you realize you’d like to resolve an unfinished relationship. Perhaps you have decided that the burdens of the anger and hurt are keeping the injury front and present in your life. Forgiveness is a powerful gift, to yourself as well as to the other person.
You do not have to forget. Forgiveness is not excusing the other person’s behavior and sweeping it away. It’s a simple acknowledgement that the bad thing happened, but you want to stop carrying the hurt. You value peace in your heart over the harboring of the grievance.
Forgiveness is about reclaiming your power. You do not even need to communicate with the person who hurt you to forgive them. Instead, your forgiveness can involve your own focus on the positives that are present in your life despite the setbacks.
Acknowledge the courage it takes to forgive. Part of bringing that painful chapter to a close is to recognize that there is great strength in setting down the hurts from the past and walking forward. Forgiveness is an act of courage. Let that be the ending of the story.
If the person involved is not available Whether you are asking for forgiveness, or extending it, the healing is in your own internal shift. If the person involved is not available—through death or distance—you can still make the changes in your heart. Sometimes it helps to write a letter, or enact a conversation with them. Unilateral forgiveness is extremely effective in the process of creating a legacy.
An ethical will is a way to share your wisdom, giving the bequest of lessons learned and loving insights for those who will follow after you in the family. It can also serve as a way to let future generations know more about you.
An ethical will can be written, but like a life review, it can also be dictated or video recorded.
Thoughts to consider sharing in an Ethical Will:
Your happiest moment and why
Important crossroads and what you learned
Your biggest regret
Suggestions when they encounter hardships
Your definition of religion, spirituality or faith
Stories about your childhood and family life growing up:
Important lessons from your parents, or grandparents
A favorite memory of your mother, father, cousins or grandparents
How your childhood impacted who you became
Your professional life
Many family members may not know about your successes and challenges in the work world.
What is your proudest work achievement?
What was your biggest work challenge?
Who was your most important mentor?
Why did you choose the profession you were in?
Any other profession you considered exploring? What attracted you to that one?
Expressions of love
An Ethical Will can also serve as an acknowledgement to members of your family. To each one you might write:
My favorite memory of you
What I most admire about you
My deepest hope for you
I would like you to have my [personal item] because ….
Please forgive me for … and/or I forgive you for …
Thank you for [***some special quality they brought to your life***]
Our family worked with Marsha Raines of Aging Well Rochester at a crucial moment when our mother was experiencing a decline in her physical capacities after living on her own for most of her adult life. Marsha was our guiding light throughout the process: explaining, with compassion, the various options for Mom; guiding us through the application process for both rehab and long-term care; and ultimately, settling Mom in at her wonderful new home where she is safe, comfortable and happy. I wholeheartedly recommend Aging Well Rochester!
Was connect with Marsha from Aging Well Rochester while searching for assistance with understanding the system and what is needed for elder parent. Marsha provided me with information, guidance, and took the time to explain differences between assisted living, independent living, and what questions to ask while interviewing for a new home for my mother. Valuable information. Marsha continues to follow up to assist if needed. Very pleased and so glad found Aging Well at a crazy time.
Coming to grips with a parent's decline and figuring out how to meet their needs can be a terribly stressful ordeal. Marsha and her team made it vastly less so. Marsha's calm demeaner, wisdom and professionalism were invaluable during the 8 months during which my father's needs were rapidly changing. She has a wealth of knowledge about resources available in the community and was able to bring them to bear quickly. I will be eternally grateful for the emotional support she provided during the entire journey.
At a time when you don't know what you don't know, Marcia knows! She asks the right questions, narrows the choices, and provides direction. She definitely helped us feel more confident as we moved forward, and she was thoughtful enough to follow up to be sure we were making progress. Highly recommend.
Marsha and staff were exceptional in their guidance though the difficult and unfamiliar journey of finding quality care for our aging parents. For over three years, they were able to anticipate needs, advocate for our parents, and provide support for them through various crises. We are so thankful for their expertise and compassion through all the changes. We highly recommend Aging Well Rochester to anyone seeking help with aging loved ones.
I just want to thank Aging Well Rochester for their assistance to complete an urgent PRI for my stepmother and also one for my father in case we needed it. The nurse went above & beyond to do that for us as we fortunately found a bed quickly for my stepmother. All went well & she is now receiving wonderful care at St. John's Home. Thank you Marsha and your staff - you made a difficult situation much easier.
Marsha Raines was incredible--responsive, caring and very knowledgeable. She helped me navigate options and provided excellent counsel. I highly recommend Aging Well to you if you are facing a difficult and emotional situation with a loved one who needs ongoing medical/rehabilitation placement and services. Marsha exceeded my expectations. Christine L.
Our initial consultation with Marsha Raines was very informative as it provided our family with a starting point concerning a long term care plan for our aging father. Her knowledge, experience and compassion allowed her to assess where each of us were in dealing with the emotional stress of the situation and provide recommendations to get us moving in the right direct with a long term care plan. Marsha helped us narrow our focus to ask the right questions regarding our next steps in care for our father. Thank you Marsha!
We were exceptionally fortunate to have Marsha Raines of Aging Well Rochester assist us in placing my wife in an appropriate facility. She guided me through all the paperwork, answered every question I had and resolved every impediment that we found in the process!Thanks so much Marsha!
We received great service from Marsha. Highly recommend. Navigating rehab and long-term care can be daunting. Marsha breaks down the ins and outs and helps bring the family to consensus on the best next steps.
Our family reached out to Aging Well Rochester for an understanding of the options and to seek clarity as to next steps for our elderly father regarding his future care. Marsha provided our family with the assistance, guidance and resources necessary to make a decision that was best for our father. Marsha's response to e-mails and phone calls was always in a timely manner and we truly appreciated all of her knowledge and expertise and would not hesitate to recommend Aging Well Rochester!!
Marsha understands the world of aging and the decisions that need to be made. She has both the education and experience to navigate a complex system to secure the best care as well as the expertise to guide throughout the process. My wife and I are grateful for her depth of knowledge, experience, skill, and compassion. We plan to use her as a resource for years to come!
Marsha Raines and her team have been a gift to my family. I'm on the West Coast, and her local knowledge has been extremely valuable in locating care options and knowing what to look for. Her direct style does not shy away from talking about tough issues, and in fact, makes it easier to devise a care plan. Marsha is a gem.
I truly appreciate the advice Marsha has to share. She has a great way of putting things into perspective and knows her stuff! Thank you for the advice, help, and input while trying to figure out the next steps with my parents.
I hired Marsha Raines to help me find the best Nursing Home for my husband. She was professional, quick to answer any questions I had, told me all I needed to do, and quick find him the right place. She was extremely helpful and compassionate with this difficult undertaking . I highly recommend anyone searching for a home for their loved one call Marsha before doing anything else!
Marsha level of expertise in this field has been tremendous. She explained the changes that occurred in the nursing homes industry. She took the time to research nursing homes for me and this afforded me time to focus on my mother's medical needs. I found Marsha to be resourceful and committed to helping me through this difficult time. I would highly recommend her service to you.
We moved our mom to a memory care residence, and in just a few short weeks we realized that it was not the right place for her. Distraught that we had made a horrible mistake, we needed help. I contacted Marsha and she met with our family to help sort things out. She took our concerns seriously, consulted with other industry professionals to assess our mom, and found us a better place for her. Just two weeks later we were able to move mom to a wonderful residence that cares for her properly and gives us all peace of mind. We are so grateful for Marsha and her ability to navigate the challenging world of eldercare on our behalf.
My husband, Bradley, needed to be moved to an adult home due to my inability to continue caring for his needs. I had no idea where to turn until Marsha Raines name was given to me. It is very difficult to navigate this process while you are under stress and her kindness and actions got the process started making it much less painful. I highly recommend her for her insurance knowledge which was extremely helpful to me.Mary Ellen Hindson, Rochester, NY
Marsha Raines assisted our family through the most trying time of our lives with Mom. She was extremely knowledgeable about placement, finances local care available and placement. She was personally involved in contacting the care facility to assist in mom getting placement.Her recommendation of the Presbyterian Home was spot on. All grants recommended came through and we were able to continue her care until she passed away.Thank you Aging Well. I would recommend her services highly.
My parents needed more assistance than I could give working full-time in another state in 2015. They were facing medical issues and needed to move out of their beloved home of 60 years. Since then, Marsha and her team have been instrumental in supporting my parents, and me, through good times and bad. They arranged movers, set up and attended doctor appointments, arranged for aides and companions to assist my parents in living safely and independently, and checked in on them to be sure they were comfortable and happy. Marsha has been an incredible resource to me, providing information and advice when needed in a direct yet sincere manner. I feel relieved to know that Marsha is there to help when I can’t be, keeping me informed, and checking in when needed. She is an incredible resource and advocate for the elderly and their families.
I contacted Marsha two weeks ago. I quickly learned that a PRI, exam to determine the level of care was needed to go into a nursing home. I was given 10 local agencies that could do it. I chose "Aging Well". Marsha was so personable on the phone, getting all the fact. She was able to arrange the exam in 5 days. The nurse showed up on time and my aunt chatted away. Two days later I got an urgent call from my aunt begging me to find her a new place immediately, she had a horrible weekend and wanted out. So, I called Marsha back that same day and asked her to take our case on and help get my aunt placed ASAP. She was pleased to help. She sent me the 3 applications to the facilities my aunt wanted by the end of the day. She kept in close contact with me the next couple of days with words of encouragement while I scrambled to get the information. I submitted the first one. Marsha personally went into the facility and spoke to the intact person giving her more details of my aunt. 5 days later, I moved my aunt into the facility she wanted. Here is a photo of her reaction. Marsha is focused, very knowledgeable, explains the process well, upbeat and is very encouraging. I would work with her again in a heart beat. She is the best.
I have worked with Marsha for 5 years now and have been consistently impressed with her diligence and dedication to providing top notch innovative and caring service. She creatively reaches out to others in the community to put together programs that will provide her clients with the high quality care they need and deserve. She is an extremely responsive and creative care manager!
I have been working with Marsha since 2008 planning for the aging process and various transitions for my parents.She has always been incredibly helpful, knowledgable and available. Over the years she has grown the organization, but still maintains that level of support. Her manner is caring and supportive yet direct, a quality that I have found very comforting and helpful during stressful transitions. I can't recommend highly enough.
Aging well Rochester did an AMAZING job of helping my family deal with my experience and Hospitalization with Covid 19. Marsha worked with my children and family and the hospital staff to make sure that I would receive the care needed upon my return home. I can't thank them enough for making this experience as easy as it could be.
Living more than 500 miles away from Rochester, visiting my mother as often as we would like was a challenge. Luckily I found Marsha Raines and her colleagues at Aging Well Rochester. Their visits to my mom were so frequent and warm that the staff at the nursing home thought they were family! Actually that's how we think of them. In addition to the care and support for my mother, the feedback and advice Marsha and her colleagues provided us was always timely and helpful. I consider the day I found Marsha to be one of my luckiest. I can't imagine the last few years without Aging Well Rochester! Thank you for enriching my mother's life and ours.