Where There’s a Will There’s a Way?

The will to do something is a determination to do it; in the legal sense, a will determines what happens when you are gone.  How many of us have taken the time to make this determination?  It’s sort of like flossing your teeth – we all know that having a will and an advance healthcare directive is something we should do… but all too often it just keeps getting pushed to the bottom of our already lengthy “to do” list.  I promise myself after every dentist appointment to start flossing regularly.  Do we remember to do it?  What about creating a will and advanced healthcare directive?  Do we tell our clients and patients how important it is and then neglect to take care of our own affairs?

So, let me remind you again – life can change in an instant. If you have not already completed these important documents, do it TODAY.

We had an experience in our family recently. My Mother-In-Law took a very bad fall and suffered a brain injury. (Fast forward – she is recovering well).

Life changed in an instant.

Fortunately, she was with family when the fall happened and they were able to call 911 immediately. But once she got to the hospital, there were important decisions to be made on the spot about her care and what actions should be taken. She had an advanced health care directive, but where the heck was it? Once we found it , there was another set of questions. What exactly did it all mean?

We were lucky. There are three physicians and a nurse in the family. They could help navigate the medical options. We knew the technical stuff, but we didn’t know what the choices my Mother-In-Law had made in her directive meant to her.

So, while it is crucial to have a will and an advance healthcare directive,  it’s not just enough to get this paperwork taken care of. The next step is to talk about your end of life wishes with your family. Don’t just assume that they will know what you want.  Death and dying often feel like taboo subjects. Sometimes cultural biases prevent families from having these conversations. Sometimes past experiences with illness or death makes it difficult to talk about end-of-life decisions. But as the saying goes, the only things certain in life are death & taxes. Having the conversation does not speed the inevitable. It will, however, make your choices clear when the time comes.

This conversation can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be and, in fact, it can provide you and your family with much needed peace of mind in those moments when life changes and decisions have to be made.

Having a neutral third party such as an Elder Care Mediator guide your family through this conversation can make it easier. Elder Care Mediators can help each party clarify their concerns and also make certain that everyone is heard and understood. Talking these important choices through with your family in a calm setting (not in the ER) will help you each know what the other wants.

What are you waiting for?

Cynthia Saffir