It was a beautiful day in May when Jessica received the call informing her that her father had succumbed to a fatal heart attack. “Dad” was 77 and apparently suffering from undetected heart disease. The loss came as a surprise to Jessica along with the discovery that her father had never put his affairs in order – a shocking realization considering “Mom” was suffering from advanced dementia.
With Dad gone, caring for Mom would fall to Jessica, the oldest of the couple’s eight children – a nurse by training and one of two siblings living locally. Jessica promptly moved Mom into her home and was ready to become a supportive caregiver – confident that she could handle it since she worked from home and her two grown children were off at college.
Following her father’s death, however, Jessica found herself wading through what seemed to be an insurmountable mound of red tape required to close her parents’ estate. Dad had no will or funeral plan and had not prepared a living will or power of attorney plan for her mother. Jessica did not even know which bank her parents used. At the same time, Jessica was facing the heartbreaking truth that her mom was steeped in dementia and required 24-hour care and supervision – clearly Dad had provided much more support than he ever let on.
In the years leading up to her father’s death, Jessica brought up the topic of getting affairs in order, but most often, her father would dismiss the topic and say, “I’ll get to it.” He never did of course and now Jessica would need to turn to an attorney for help. The process would be long and exhausting and she would spend thousands of dollars in legal fees. Jessica wished she could have spent these funds on enhanced care for her mother who experienced a rapid deterioration from Alzheimer’s disease and eventually required placement in a nursing facility.
Unfortunately, Jessica’s story is not unique and her father’s avoidance of getting his affairs in order is common. For many of us, the idea of illness or death touching our lives is easily avoided or dismissed for attention later¬. Plus, getting your affairs in order is work and often carries some expense. It also requires some serious decision-making and hard conversations.
If “getting your affairs in order” is still on your to-do list, learn from Jessica’s story and move it up in priority. If you have aging parents, find out what plans they’ve made, if any. Don’t let perceived youth delay your actions – accidents and serious illnesses have no age qualifiers.
Need some help getting started? Avow has some free tools available on its website including:
- “My Life Dossier,” a tool designed to help you organize important documents needed in times of emergency or following a death. This resource also walks you through some important considerations to help you prepare for your final life chapter.
- “Living Will Kit” to help you document your advance directives.
Avow delivers the promise of life by providing comfort, care, understanding and dignity to those who are seriously ill, caring for a frail or sick loved one or mourning someone’s passing. They are knitted into their community, providing supportive services to anyone who needs them, including those whose loved ones were not in our programs. Find out more at avowcares.org