Life, Death, & the Holidays
The day after Thanksgiving NPR published an article titled "After the Cranberries and Pie, Take Time to Talk About Death." The author tells the story of her 90 year old mother's collapse and subsequent trip to the ICU which led to many conversations about death and her mother's last wishes.
"Two years ago my mom fell at home and ended up being admitted to the ICU with four broken ribs and internal injuries. She was lucky. After two weeks in the hospital and a few more in a rehab unit she was back home, using her new blue walker to get around."
This article touches upon an important aspect of advanced planning. Are you prepared for the moment your loved one collapses? It is not only important to know what your loved ones' wishes would be, but also to know what conditions they currently suffer from, if any- maybe even visiting the doctor with them a few times to get to know their doctor and discuss contingency plans. I actually have a tabbed binder filled with my mothers medical documents and know the medications she takes by heart. Her doctor's know be by name!
And the holidays are the perfect time to talk about these important topics with your loved ones as everyone is together and feeling emotions of love and happiness. It may sound dreary but these conversations lead to a certain peace of mind you wouldn't expect. It is clear in the NPR article that after the initial scare she experienced with her mother, the author values the information gained in these conversations:
"And I know we'll be talking about this more, even though I have a hard time thinking about it without tearing up."
A little discomfort now will actually serve to help the family process later, when it comes time to mourn the death of that loved one. Talk about both your wishes and the wishes of your parents. If your children are over 18 and may potentially be the decision maker in an emergency, talk to them about it too.
"Family gatherings like Thanksgiving can be a good time for adult children to ask aging parents about their wishes for end-of-life care..."When you discuss this topic as a family unit, even with the grandchildren (of appropriate age) around, it creates an environment that is safe and burden-lifting for the family as a whole. It can serve as a way to unite the family even more.
But most important of all, after having this important discussion with your loved ones- put your decisions on paper! Make sure to solidify and fortify your wishes in legally enforceable documents such as Healthcare Surrogate Designations, HIPAA releases, Living Wills, and Final Disposition Instructions.
Don't go at it alone either. Document sellers like legal zoom and rocket lawyer cannot offer you the legal expertise and tailored advice that an attorney with a human brain can.