Category Archives: estate planning

Part Two: “Let’s Talk Turkey” Here’s a real life example

Giving Thanks for My Father’s Death
By Rev. Rosemary Lloyd, 11/22/2016

[Permission to publish]

This Thursday, there will be an empty chair at the table for our family Thanksgiving gathering. My brothers and I made plans months ago to come from the many corners of our busy lives to be together for what we suspected would be my father’s final Thanksgiving on earth. But he won’t be with us. He died October 16, 2016.

It’s okay.

Don’t misunderstand: I’m sad; I will miss him forever.
And I am grateful for his death.

My father was 95 in August. For more than two years, we witnessed the mental diminishment that came with the unforgiving progression of late-onset dementia. Ultimately, the man who was a navigator during World War II—who could fly through night skies with stars as his guides—would say, “I’m lost. Where am I? Where are we going?” Untethered from the circadian rhythms of the household, he would wander restlessly at night and doze on and off through the day.

It became more and more difficult to understand what made him comfortable or uncomfortable. What he would want to eat instead of push away. Whether he would agree to take a walk or get dressed or simply refuse.
So, when he died quietly, sitting in his favorite chair, waiting to be called for dinner, I was, of course, sad. And grateful.

Grateful that his death was what so many of us dream for ourselves: It was peaceful, seemingly without pain, at home, near his beloved wife, the smells of his favorite dinner wafting from the kitchen. We are grateful for the mercy that he still knew his bride of 63 years, and recognized his children and grandchildren. The twinkle is his eyes still ignited when he saw a baby or a pretty woman. And he was still saying, “Thank you,” “I’m sorry,” and “I love you.”

I am so grateful that we had some crucial conversations along the way. Dad convened his adult children after Thanksgiving dinner some years ago to explain his finances to us all. He designated who was to have Power of Attorney for financial matters, who would be executors of his estate, and who his back-up health care agent was, after our mom.

Early last year, having outlived the battery in the pacemaker/defibrillator that slept under his skin, he opted to have just the pacemaker replaced, saying he didn’t want his heart “shocked” if it was ready to stop. We gently pushed the conversation to the next level: What if your heart stops beating in the hospital or at home? Do you want us to attempt CPR to try to restart your heart? “No,” he answered softly. “I don’t want that.”

He asked his doctor for a DNR order and it was placed on the refrigerator at home. I am so grateful for his courage, and for my mother’s and brothers’ tender compassion that allowed us to talk openly. And for the doctor’s humanity in receiving Dad’s request. Those conversations were a gift that gave everyone peace of mind on October 16th.

Though he “graduated” from hospice in August, I am grateful for the dedicated and compassionate people who supported my parents for six months. If you ask her, my mother will tell you how “Wonderful!” were the world-expanding visits from the chaplain, and social worker, and nurse—for both of them.

I am grateful for the many years that my father was our guiding star, and for the gift of words that expressed his love for us and his faith in a God who would be his eternal rest. I am grateful for the many family, friends, and strangers-to-me who expressed their condolences, sent food, came to the house and the funeral parlor, to the church and the graveside. I am grateful for the co-workers who allowed me the time to be with my family and who understand that grief isn’t over just because the funeral is.

As I look around the table this Thanksgiving, I will, no doubt, see eyes that twinkle like my dad’s, and eyes that sparkle with brimming tears. And I will feel so much gratitude for the gift of my father’s life and his death. May his memory be a blessing for generations.

Let’s Talk Turkey—and I Don’t Mean “Who Wants a Drumstick?”

turkey-drawing-by-ben-hider

November 20, 2016   Bethesda, Maryland

Last year, 87 million Americans drove over fifty miles in a frenzied attempt to connect with relatives and friends for Thanksgiving. Will you be on the road next week? What are your motives? Will it be worth it?

The expression, Let’s talk turkey, refers to ‘having a focus, getting down to business.’ Will you commit to making your holiday visit more productive? It’s an ideal intergenerational time to talk about end-of-life wishes, hear and discuss each other’s opinions. If you’re thinking: ‘Easier said than done…’ watch these three short YouTube interviews with Ellen Goodman, co-Founder (2012) of The Conversation Project:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbWcLYOniWU

www.youtube.com/watch?v=09w3Lv9QiR4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inATwqe4iX0

I have another trick up my sleeve—a Guest Blog post from Susan Soper, creator of ObitKit. You read it correctly: ObitKit. Using Susan’s guidelines, ask your family to help write your obituary. Before you read her Guest Blog, take a quick romp through her website www.obitkit.com

How-to Make It Through the Holidays  

Susan Soper

As the holidays are approaching, perhaps you will be experiencing a number of heartbreaking firsts this year:

“First Thanksgiving”: a special someone is missing from the table.

“First Christmas and Hanukkah in December”: you’re flooded with the spirit of loving and giving—and now, cherished memories from the past.

“First New Year”: you wonder: A whole year? How am I going to do this alone? Birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Mothers’ and Fathers’ Days, vacations, graduations, weddings, new births…you get the idea! It’s a daunting prospect. A loved one has died, but that doesn’t mean the memories of them do, too.

Our solution for enduring these rituals? We can keep their spirit alive with new traditions:

  • hang their stockings on the fireplace
  • use their most raved about recipes in our holiday meals
  • include their beloved ornaments or flowers in the centerpiece
  • listen to music they loved
  • attend their regular religious services and community programs.

Talking about them keeps their spirit, memory, and legacies alive. You can almost feel their presence as you recall top achievements, beloved stories, even missed opportunities—quirks, habits, oft-quoted sayings.

What about when it’s your turn to be missing at the table? How would you like that conversation to go? While you’re healthy, provide the leadership and guidance to discuss your final wishes. It’s the best gift! This avoids the guesswork and critical decision making during a heartbreaking, grieving time. State your exact wishes about how you’d like to be remembered and celebrated verbally and in writing. They’ll be relieved to know your final wishes and be able to honor them.

 Susan Soper is the author and founder of ObitKit: Live. Love. Laugh. Cry. Write it down! a workbook to help other families avoid the guesswork and last-minute decisions at the most heartbreaking time.   www.obitkit.com

 

 

 

 

 

Fast track to End of Life Planning—Introducing a New Series by Jon and Michelle Braddock

Everyone has a story. What’s yours? What’re you passionate about?

Some ideas are hatched out of inspiration, or out of desperation. www.yourexitstrategy.org (YES) was born out 40+ years of guilt. My guilt.

In 1967 I questioned my father’s doctor about his prognosis: He said: “Your dad’s got five years, with prostate cancer, if he follows directions.”

I was only 25 and totally self-absorbed. After traveling, studying and working overseas, my energies were focused on being a speech therapist in three Washington DC schools, and planning our wedding. Commute five hundred miles back to their home in Ohio? Not possible. It never occurred to me to delve deeper than his diagnosis. Our phone conversations were pathetic: “How’re you feeling today?”

You’ll learn with me as guest bloggers Jon and Michelle Braddock share how her dad’s death changed their professional careers. 

Being PREPARED Is a Gift!     Jon Braddock

I’m prepared for the inevitable: my own death. Being organized means not leaving a huge mess for my family to sort out. Do you know what happens if someone dies, hasn’t specified their wishes, or left concise directions for their loved ones? It creates undue STRESS, absorbs a tremendous amount of TIME and can cost huge sums of MONEY! Not coincidentally, these are the same three things that divide families.

Shocked by the unexpected death of my father-in-law, (they’d been married 63 years) it took us almost a year to locate and access online accounts [without passwords], trace safe deposit box keys, bank accounts, and life insurance policies. The list seemed never ending. He’d probably never considered how difficult it would be to untangle and settle their affairs.

Please watch our two-minute story on Vimeo to learn why we’ve become so passionate about helping other families avoid similar pain: https://vimeo.com/152296272   It’s pushed us into a career we could never have imagined: www.MyLifeandWishes.com

We’re relieved that our adult children won’t face the nightmare we did, because they know our desires and where everything is located. What do you want the experience to be like for your family? Are you prepared?  It’s easier than you think—download our guide: 10 Things You Need To Know http://try.mylifeandwishes.com/end-of-life-planning-ebook/

Our website is an online planning tool and storage site, which simplifies end-of-life planning considerations: healthcare directives; funeral direction; last wish instructions; wills; insurance papers; banking information; and other critical information you’ll need. Please use our previous blog posts https://www.mylifeandwishes.com/blog/ as an educational hub for your unanswered questions.

Do you agree that “building your final roadmap” could be the greatest gift you could leave your family?

Your Spouse as Healthcare Agent? 

Your Spouse as Healthcare Agent?   Perhaps NOT!

 Our GUEST BLOGGER, M. Jane Markley’s specialty in Advance Care directives makes her a highly sought speaker and trainer. Please register for the FREE webinar with Kim Adams, July 21st. 

Jane said: “In my June 2015 newsletter, I spoke about CHOOSING your Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, also known as a Healthcare Agent.  I emphasized the importance of addressing three criteria when making this decision.  As a refresher, here they are.  The person you choose should:

  • Be ready, willing, and able to take on the role
  • Have had a conversation with you and understand your wishes
  • Be able to abide by your wishes and be your advocate when needed. 

What are the Pro’s and Con’s of having a spouse be your healthcare agent?  Over 40 years ago, my mother chose me, not my father, to be her healthcare agent.  He fully met the first two criteria, but she felt that he wouldn’t be able to meet the third, because of the type of care she would want when “the crisis” occurred.  She believed I would best be able to advocate for her.  Then she told everyone in the family her wishes. Spouses frequently struggle with the choices their loved ones make. If they can’t support those decisions, or advocate for them, they’re not the right person to assume this role.  Whomever you choose to be your healthcare agent, speak with them to make sure they meet all three.”

These are the nuances of advance care planning that not everyone considers. Do you have other questions about this type of planning?  Want to learn more in a safe environment?  Join us Thursday, 21 July at 7:00 pm EST, when I’ll be speaking about advance care planning, and taking questions from the audience on Kim Adams’ Monthly Dialogues for Living and Dying Well.  Please register at:

https://app.webinarjam.net/register/1117/0eaa8c834f


I hope that you will be able to join us for this
FREE program. Have ‘The Conversation’ and Give ‘The Gift’

 Copyright © M Jane Markley Consulting, LLC. All Rights Reserved
www.mjmarkley.com   (301) 744-7656

Emma's Battle of the Q's

The “Battle of the Q’s” PART ONE

Emma's Battle of the Q's

 Recognize three new acronyms: NED; MBC; + AND?

It’s easy to be an armchair quarterback, and intellectualize QUALITY of life vs QUANTITY of life until an accident or a terminal disease catapults you to the business end of a buzz saw. Don’t become complacent like I did.

I had STAGE IIIA breast cancer in 2004, after multiple surgeries, chemo and radiation. I was anxious before every six-month checkup, and after five years, the annual visits. What a relief to be told: “No Evidence of Disease (NED).” I took NED for granted. Excruciating headaches in late 2015 led to a diagnostic cervical CT scan, which identified hairline fractures in my cervical spine. A second CT scan, plus a deep needle biopsy of my Iliac crest, verified that I’d leapt over STAGE IIIB—and landed in STAGE IV cancer, which is where the bus stops. Totally blindsided, NED was replaced with a new acronym: Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC).

Treatment plan: Ten doses of cervical radiation in December; six months of wearing hard and soft neck collars 24/7; daily Femara pills, and a monthly injection of Exgeva to strengthen my bones. June CT scan–no new tumors. While intermittent bone pain in my legs and ongoing fatigue punctuate my daily activities, now’s the time to reinforce my End of Life (EOL) discussions, i.e., My Exit Strategy that I’d designed with my website in 2013. Research on bone metastasis shows a five to ten year life expectancy, so it’s a perfect time to rev up this conversation, again.

If you were buying a car, you’d check out the dealership’s reputation, right? Why not do the same, and investigate your future EOL needs like geographically desirable hospice facilities, caskets, cemetery plots, funeral homes or cremation services, now, before you need it?

I remind my adult children that just as the citizens of Chicago were told to vote early and often, when my health goes downhill, they should use the same approach with the Hospice I have chosen. Start early and ask often: “Is my Mom ready to go into hospice yet?” Every patient will decline, and the doctors will be asked: Would you be surprised if she died in the next six months? I don’t want to be cheated out of one day! Give me hospice!

Here’s the third acronym: Allow Natural Death (AND). My directions are simple and clear. Be prepared for the time when my cancer becomes aggressive, or stops responding to treatment. If a medical crisis develops, my condition could deteriorate very quickly. Don’t panic. Keep my POLST* and Advance Directives visible. Focus on comfort care—only give me the best QUALITY of life possible. No heroics, last-ditch surgeries or attempts to prolong my life—which in reality just prolongs a patient’s suffering. DO NOT send me to the ER or the ICU. Keep me at home. Re-read my Directives. Review our state guidelines for paramedics. If I can’t breathe, don’t call 911. Never allow anyone to crack my ribs, or surgically open my airways. Stay calm. My goals have changed—I’m looking forward to my eternal life. As soon as I am Absent from the body, I’ll be present with the Lord. I’ll get there sooner if you remember AND –Allow Natural Death.

POLST*    Physician Ordered Life Sustaining Treatment. States use different terms. Find yours on this map www.polst.org

The linchpin to End of Life (EOL) planning is to stay in control. Make your personal Exit Strategy air tight. Clarify your wishes now, and keep talking about it until your family understands the blueprint you’ve outlined for them. Research demonstrates that when the family is at peace with your advance decisions, they can concentrate on mourning and remembering your legacy—which keeps you alive in their hearts and minds.

Coming soon:  PART TWO   Building your own Quality VS Quantity charts.

 

 

 

True Confessions: I AM a “NAGGER” *

Elizabeth Hurlow-Hannah is nothing less than ONE BIG NAG and I will be indebted to her for being such for the rest of my life.

The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth has been a very good and close friend of my wife and me for almost twenty years now. But in the last several years, she has been reminding me that I should put my will, health advance directive and other end-of-life papers in order.  When she became aware that I was procrastinating on getting this matter accomplished, she became a bit more forceful in reminding me how important this matter is. To get this dear friend off my back, my wife and I went to an elder-law attorney about a year ago and had the appropriate papers drawn up. We both indicated in our advance health directives that we wanted no extraordinary resuscitation measures to be taken in case of a health crisis, including feeding tubes. Continue reading

Funeral and Burial Plot Medicaid Exemptions

When the sun is about to set and the death of a loved one is imminent, proper planning is crucial. In most instances, it is a good idea to begin planning well in advance so that all expenses at the end will be covered and will not fall on the survivors. With our many years of experience as Medicaid planning consultants, we at Senior Planning Services would like to educate our readers on the common pitfalls to avoid in managing one’s assets for Medicaid eligibility and funeral and burial plot expenses. Continue reading

A Logical, Loving Exit Strategy—in Ten Easy Steps

Last summer I hired a woman-owned firm* to cut our grass. A chance conversation about my work on end of life issues opened a flood gate of gratitude to her mother. Astounded, my reaction was “Wow! Your mom sounds like The Poster Child for planning ahead. Please write this story for my website!” Continue reading