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Planning for the inevitable

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First, I want to thank everyone who emailed, called or mentioned to me in person their condolences over my mother's death, and that they were glad that I wrote my experiences in An Apple A Day. When I started this healthcare blog, I really anticipated having many months to explore the issues surrounding long-term care, quality of care for the aging, and living with dementia from first-hand experiences. I had no idea that I would be writing about end-of-life decisions so soon.

Several people also expressed how lucky I am, and my mother was, to have this experience, yet not have it drag out for months, or years, even. I agree, and I do feel privileged that I could be there to help my mother through her journey.

In addition to a lot of support, I got a lot of great feedback and ideas for future columns. I was struck by an email from Gaylen Willett, a local health insurance agent, who emailed to tell me that she was sad that my mother died for two reasons: I had lost my mother, and I would no longer be writing about the important issues facing our seniors.

With her permission, I pass this excerpt of her email along: "I have been a health insurance agent since 2003 and the consistent factor I find in 85% of my customers is: They do not have a will They have not designated anyone to act as Power of Attorney for themselves They have made no arrangements for their service when they die. I used to find this SHOCKING, now I am more surprised when I meet people who ARE prepared for the inevitable."

Well, I must admit, even after finding out how necessary it was to have a will, a living will, Power of Attorney, and at least an idea of what my mother wanted done after she died, I still have not done the same for myself.

Yet, in trying to handle a number of things regarding my mother's care, these things were all necessary. First, the Power of Attorney. Well after her dementia had become noticeable, we needed that power of attorney to sign papers that she could no longer understand. Fortunately, she readily agreed to give my sister and I that power after we moved her into an assisted living facility.

Her living will was truly a godsend when she ended up in the hospital after her stroke. The doctors could read it and tell us precisely what they were directed to do, based on her wishes, and what she did not want done. We did not have to make those painful decisions.

Her will did not say much, but I'm understanding from my sister, who is executrix, that without it, she would have trouble carrying out some very simple things, like closing out her house in Florida, which we expect the bank to take back through the reverse mortgage. Or cashing out the few stocks she has.

As Gaylen later writes, we usually can't predict medical issues, such as strokes, heart attacks or serious falls, but we can plan ahead for when such events happen.