I remember turning 18 my senior year in High School. My parents picked me up from school and we went straight to their Attorneys office to formalize my Will, Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will/Advance Directives. Not quite the kick-off into adulthood and a Birthday that I expected, but nevertheless, I understood what it was all about. Planning and preparing for the future is not always wine and roses.
I’ve adjusted my Will, Health Care Power of Attorney and Care Directives many times over the years. Changing executors, adding a husband, children, adjustments to benefactors and charity and more recently, getting much more specific about what I want and don’t want to happen regarding end of life matters.
No one wants to really sit down and talk about death. Really, it’s an ugly subject talking about how you want to die and what type of care you want or what care you don’t want to have.
This isn’t about being sick or healthy, young or old. Accidents happen. The unexpected happens. Life happens. It’s about ensuring your wishes are respected and there’s no question and no debate. You can’t assume your spouse, mother, father, brother or sister will know what your wishes are. Even if you’ve talked about it or mentioned your wishes in passing; unless it’s in writing there’s no guarantee your wishes will be interpreted accurately or that they’ll be executed for you.
These personal and individual decisions are ones that both Paul and I have spent a great deal of time talking about and preparing for. Over the years, we’ve grown to respect the value of planning through our own life experiences. We understand the nightmare of debating and speculating what you “think” a family member would want or debating what is or isn’t appropriate care. It is not pretty, not fun and certainly it is not necessary.
While at times depressing and heavy in subject matter, preparing and planning is all about making the future easier and less stressful for our children and family. I know I would much prefer the debates at the end of my life to surround party venues, catering orders, liquor/wine/beer orders and how many hotel rooms need to be blocked off. Have no fear, I’ll surely have a list for that too!
Let’s be honest, far too much in life happens when you’re looking the other direction. Being prepared for the unexpected is something we’ve always taken seriously and never placed on the back burner. Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today.
The bitch about reality is that we’re taught and learn lessons through tragic experiences. Experiences that sharply bring into focus that while we can’t know what tomorrow brings, we can ensure the unexpected is met with clarity of intent and desire.
An expression of intent and desire for how we want to live and how we want to die is about planning for the future. A plan that allows for everyone to move forward with peace of mind in the face of the unexpected.
Take a moment, think about what you want, engage in a conversation and take the first step. For more information, go to Caring Connections (www.caringinfo.org).Caring Connections is a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), is a national consumer and community engagement initiative to improve care at the end of life, supported by a grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.