Today I read a story about a woman who had to bring her husband home from an assisted living facility because they ran out of money. The husband was no longer verbal and had to be supervised 24-hours a day in order to maintain his safety. She was asking for help and not sure what to do next. So often I have heard stories like this or similar to this. Loved ones and the individual in question were not prepared to handle their affairs when a crisis ensued. Many times when the individual is forced to make their affairs known they are very weak and/or so emotionally overwhelmed they cannot make a decision that is in their best interest or the interest of those who will take charge. Another situation would be that the next of kin would be assigned and that person may make disagreeable decisions whether intentional or unintentional. I have witnessed who families ripped apart for generations because of this.
But who should get their affairs in order and when should it be done?
My answer to you is ASAP. No matter the age there should be plans in place for a situation where the individual in question cannot make their decisions on their own. This is not just for the elderly and the dying. Anyone can have a tragic sudden illness or accident that leaves everyone in shock and in a state of disbelief. No one can think clearly under those circumstances. For the elderly this is especially important so that their wishes are respected and their dignity remains intact through this phase of life.
Thinking of the term "final affairs" sounds scary. Who really wants to plan for their death or other form of tragedy . But I challenge you to think of your loved ones. Those who are going to have to make these decisions for you. Usually that is the next of kin if no predetermined. That would first be a spouse, an adult child, a parent, a sibling, etc. Do they know what you want or are they going to be emotionally equipped to handle your affairs during a time of crisis? Are they the ones you would put in charge of this if you had a choice? I have recently heard an example where a mother had suffered a stroke which lead to advanced disability and brain damage. The stroke was sudden in a healthy woman but then it was left to her adult children to handle her house, medical, financial, and personal affairs. Would you be ready to suddenly take that all over for someone you love, while keeping your emotions in check? Do you trust your next of kin to know what you want and need or respect YOUR wishes if you are unable to speak? I have heard many times from people that they are not worried about their elderly years because they will not live long enough. And then they do...now what? If you are young and have small children do you ever think what will happen to them if something happens to you?
I will provide a short explanation of what you can do to get started planning your final affairs. The National Institute on Aging provides valuable resources to help with planning for this future we will all face eventually. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/advance-care-planning-healthcare-directives
Below is a video that highlights some of these topics if you prefer.
DNR Order. One of the first things that you need to consider is if you would want a DNR (Do not Resuscitate) order. DNR orders are a decision that the individual makes as to whether they would want to have CPR or other measures to sustain life if you were unable to do so on your own. Those who would want DNR orders are individuals who are very elderly or frail. In those circumstances life saving procedures would do more harm than good. Along with that would come artificial means of survival. Examples include feeding tubes, ventilation, and IV fluids for hydration. Those who are younger, would want their life prolonged, or those who could recover from illness or injury would not want to choose this option. To create a DNR order you need to sit down with your doctor or medical provider and make your wishes known. For more information check out the following link.
Living Will. A Living Will expresses your wishes or orders to doctors and loved ones on how you want to be treated in the event you are unable to speak for yourself. It takes the guess work out difficult decisions that would have to be made by loved ones. You should also choose a medical power of attorney. This person should know you and your personality very well. They will understand and respect what your wishes would be if you are unable to make decisions on your own. Having someone like this could take the place of a Living Will especially if you are younger with no foreseen complications. For more information visit the following link.
Advanced Directive. An Advanced Directive is a form that in the state of Missouri must be notarized in order for it to be legal. This gives medical professionals and loved ones specific plans of action in the event you are unable to execute them yourself. It is suggested that you have one in every state you spend time in regularly in the event that something happens when you are not in your home state. It is also stated that an Advanced Directive not to be used in place of legal council but in addition too. Below I have placed the link for the Missouri version of an Advanced Directive.
Finances. An area that needs to be addressed as well is the financial and personal matters of your life if you were to pass away or be unable to continue caring for yourself. You need to have all of your important documents in order. This includes but is not limited to banking information, personal information such as birth certificates and insurances, tax returns, list of bills like a mortgage and when they are paid, important contacts including those who would be able to execute your religious preferences at the time of death and physicians, medication lists, important dates that have records such as military services, etc. This action is extremely important for those who will be having to take over your affairs to be able to continue your life for you or to settle your accounts. Also, if you are older or battling a life altering illness or injury, it is important to have your trusted Power of Attorney added to all of your accounts so they can easily settle them for you. You may also want to have a back up trusted individual just in case the first one is unable to execute your will for any number of reasons. Below is a link to a PDF that will further allow you to explore the financial side of Final Affairs.
All of these tips can work for anyone over the age of 18. It is advised that every decade or if something comes up that could change the outlook of your future or your loved ones future to update this information. People come and go from our lives whether by death, divorce, distance or other means and it may come as a surprise to someone you have not talked to for 12 years to get the call to settle your affairs when they do not know you anymore. A big one is an ex-spouse. Make sure that if a marriage is made or dissolved wills are updated to reflect that. Same with if someone were to pass away. You need to update your will to reflect those changes or a next of kin will be decided by someone other than you.
Settling your affairs while you are healthy is a wonderful gift to your next of kin. This act of kindness will allow them to grieve and/or comfort each other with as little stress as possible in this circumstance. You do not want your closest loved ones to have to deal with this emotional trauma then say, "Now what do I do."