Agency on Aging

End of Life Plans

It’s a new year and that usually brings with it the intention to make some changes to make us healthier, happier, more successful in whatever we do. And then we go back to life as usual since we never seem to have the time or energy to add something new to our list of things that must be done.

 I suggest to you there is one thing that can’t be put off to another day. I have been involved in caregiving for more than 25 years, personally and professionally. Over the Christmas holiday a very close friend, who had multiple chronic conditions died unexpectedly. Her caregiver was a long-distance situation provided by her young daughter. There never was enough time for my friend and her daughter to have the type of conversations necessary in all caregiver relationships where we speak honestly about what we want, we need, we have at the end of our lives. We think there’ll be time during the next visit to discuss these topics, but today, let’s just celebrate the holiday. Sadly, we don’t know when it will be our last holiday and then there’s no time to plan.

 My friend got sick, her daughter heard it in her voice and got an ambulance, but by the time she was able to get a flight and get to CT, her mother was hospitalized, unconscious and never regained consciousness. And now she’s confronted with what to do next. Does her mother have insurance? Did she prefer burial or cremation? Does she have a will? What music does she want at the funeral? Where is the deed to the house? Where are the bank accounts? The mortgage still needs to be paid; the heat needs to be kept on. Where are the utilities paid? Who would she want notified of her death? Is a Facebook posting OK, or did she want a newspaper obituary? When these are the last acts that you perform for your loved one, you want and need to feel you are honoring their wishes. But if you’ve never had these conversations, how can you be sure you are?

 So, forget about the other resolutions. The very next time you are with your loved one, take out a pad and pencil or an iPad and write down the answers to all the above questions. Avoiding these conversations won’t make life easier at any point in time. Having these conversations will make life easier for the caregiver and maybe even for the care recipient who may have some specific requests they want honored and by asking you’re showing your intention to honor their wishes.

Written by Beverly Kidder

Vice President of Community Programs