August Newsletter 2015 – Planning Is a GIFT

Too frequently I hear someone say, “I don’t care what they do with me when I’m gone.” But what kind of legacy is that to leave your loved ones? You can live the rest of your life wondering if you did what your parent or spouse would have wanted.

I listened to an angry, young woman who had just lost her father. She said she resented not having a proper time to grieve or have closure with her father because she was so busy making decisions and having to process endless paperwork relevant to the funeral, insurance and other necessary and demanding considerations.

There are many decisions we are empowered to voice our opinions about now. A class participant shared with me that her mother-in-law had a very weak heart. She had her DNR form completed and posted on the front of the refrigerator for when the time came. Yet, when that final heart failure occurred, her father-in-law couldn’t refrain from calling 911. He knew it wasn’t what his wife wanted, but he felt helpless to watch her die.

She ended up in the hospital and kept alive only by tubes and artificial means. All of her many children and grandchildren arrived, and although the adults could go in and speak to her, the only exchange from her seemed to be the pleading in her eyes to let her go.

Family meetings occurred with physicians, and everyone agreed that she would want to be lovingly released. They decided to meet for prayers at the hospital chapel the next morning, have their last visits with her, and then allow the life support to be turned off. Everyone was a peace about what was to take place, yet minutes before turning off the life support, an older relative arrived and refused to accept the family’s decision. Chaos followed. Many family members now had to return to their home states, and she died within hours after most of the family left.

This story reminds us how important it is to make loved ones aware of what decisions have been made. Decisions should be in writing, and a copy given to an attorney. It’s essential that medical decisions are not in a lock box or safe deposit box, but where they can be reviewed and accessed easily. Finally, it’s imperative that the health care agent, or person trusted to follow out instructions, is capable and willing to do so.

A woman in her late 60s shared with me her worry. She doesn’t want any life-saving measures when the time comes, but her only child insists that he will do whatever is necessary to keep her alive– no matter what!

We like to think we have time, but we never know when death will call us—or someone else we love. Rather than leave anything to chance, it’s vital to be educated about your choices, create necessary documents to express your wishes, and communicate to your loved ones now.