Every few months, I write a post on the immediate need for everyone – no matter what their age, their health, or their life circumstances – to know and understand the vital information that needs to documented (and executed in terms of legal documents) and communicated to their designee when they are unable, either temporarily or permanently, to take care of their own affairs.
This includes digital access (email accounts, online bank accounts, retail accounts, etc.) documentation as well as legal, medical, and financial documents everyone needs to have in place when we need help or can’t take care of our own affairs in this area.
I am extremely puzzled by the fact those most people put this off and avoid thinking about it or doing it. It’s illogical and it is really cruel to those whose laps it ends up in.
I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard about a family member – especially parents of grown children – being incapacitated with life and death in the balance and because nobody ever talked about this contingency and no documents – living wills and/or DNRs – exist, there’s no clear decision-maker and the ability to let go (taking off life support when there’s no chance of recovery) is long, hard, and gut-wrenching on the family.
And the one who didn’t take the time to spell out their wishes suffers terribly and needlessly, not to get better, but essentially just to run up a meaningless huge debt that will decimate their estate and perhaps ruin the financial health of those they leave behind.
None of is guaranteed our next breath, a healthy life with no life-changing accidents and diseases, nor a healthy mind for as long as we live. Things could literally change 180% for any of us and our families and loved ones while we’re reading this sentence. Yet, of all the things it seems that we humans deceive ourselves about, this seems to be the top “It won’t happen to me.”
But the reality is that it will.
If not sooner, then later.
And the most selfish and irresponsible thing that we can do to our families and our loved ones is to not be prepared ourselves and to not ensure that we have designated and prepared the decision-makers we choose in advance.
This is one of the greatest acts of love and one of the biggest blessings we can do for and give to those closest to us and whom we love the most.
All of us need to be preparing in advance for the possibility that something – whether it’s Alzheimer’s Disease, dementias, other life-threatening illnesses, or simply time and chance – could suddenly and dramatically or slowly and insidiously render us incapable of taking care of our own affairs.
With the precipitous rise in dementias overall, which may be in part related to a more toxic planet, more toxic water, and more toxic food, and the burgeoning number of lifestyle-related dementias that are emerging, the odds are not in our favor that every single one of us, in time, will not suffer from some sort of neurological degeneration.
Who is going to help us when this happens?
And even if you or I are the exception to the rule, we’re still going to die. Everybody dies.
You can ignore it, you can deny it, you can live in some fantasy world where you refuse to think about it ever, but it doesn’t change the reality that it will happen to you and me.
I believe most of us assume that death will be quick and instantaneously, but the reality is that, in all likelihood, most of us will probably have a period of decline in which we will need help handling our financial, legal, and medical affairs before we take our last breaths.
And, after we take our last breaths, someone will have to take care of getting us buried and ending our financial, legal, and medical status among the living.
Who would that be for you? Yes, you, the one who is reading this post. Do you know? Does that person know? If that person knows, have you made this as easy as possible for him or her by doing your part and making sure he or she has everything he or she needs to do what needs to be done?
Or, because you don’t want to think about it or talk about, will that person have the burdensome responsibility of trying to figure it out all on his or her own?
We say we don’t want to be burdens to our loved ones. By taking care of this, you and I – we – have taken a big step toward easing the magnitude of that burden that, if we live long enough, will be shouldered by our loved ones.
I did my first will and living will shortly after I turned 21. I review and update, if necessary, both of those when my circumstances change or 12 months have passed. I have a signed and notarized DNR.
I have complete documentation on my digital footprint, as well as other financial, medical, insurance, property, and notification (for death) documentation that I keep updated as well.
I have detailed instructions regarding my funeral service and my burial.
If not, why not?
What are you going to do about?
When are you going to do something about it?
What if tomorrow never comes?