Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Final Stage of Life, Part II (Ironic, right?)

Dear Friends,

How are you in these difficult times?

I have one last post on the topic of Terry and some lessons learned.

Money

Not everyone can save and invest as Terry could. She could have stretched her budget and lived in more upscale places, done a lot of shopping and travel but she grew up doing the Depression and learned a lot about saving pennies, budgeting and investing. None of her investments were risky and she kept them for a long time, riding out the ups and downs of the American economy. She had money to enjoy retirement and money to use in those last years when she needed help. Continuous care residences are expensive and insurance doesn’t cover them.

Medical

She had great insurance. This is not a political statement - it’s a reality of life that treatment is expensive and we don’t all have access. Get the best insurance you can and go to the doctor early before your condition gets worse. 

Take the medicine you need and follow the instructions. Antibiotics don’t work if you take 1/10 of the recommended dose and then stop. Keep a list including your prescriptions, vitamins and over-the-counter medicine. If your list is getting complicated, long, and you are afraid you might forget, keep a copy of the list with your medicine and use pillboxes. Bring the list to each doctor’s appointment. They all ask for this information and if you are unwell, you might miss something.

If you’re concerned about hearing the doctor properly and adequately giving them information, if you are ill and unsure you'll remember instructions, someone else should be in the room with you. 

Start to research where you would go if you think it’s time or listen to feedback from others who know you. Let your feelings be known and document if you can.

Think about who would make decisions for your finances and health and complete the proper paperwork. Terry had a completed Power of Attorney form and that was helpful for banking. 

The Mayo Clinic has a great post about Living Wills and Advanced Directives to help you learn about these issues and processes. Have a frank discussion with your doctor and loved ones about what the options mean and which ones you have selected. The more paperwork and decisions in place, the easier it is for your loved ones to carry out your wishes. Different states have different laws and requirements, so if you move, find out if you have to make changes.

Make death plans. Some may donate bodies to medical science, others will choose burial or cremation. There are additional options such as headstone or plaque, ground or columbarium, scattered ashes or remaining in a container on a mantle. If you choose cremation, having a specified place to put cremains is a wise idea. If you want to be on a mantle, when your survivor dies, someone else has to decide what to do with your cremains. It’s burdensome.

Do you want a traditional funeral? Celebration of life? Obituary? These choices are to provide documentation and comfort for family and friends. You can present your wishes in advance in writing. One of the most interesting obituaries I saw was composed by the deceased who reflected on his life during a long illness. His humor, his proudest moments among is family and friends were noted. He expressed who he was in the years between the “dash” in his life, the dash being the mark between birth and death on the tombstone.

Whatever you decide, make those plans in advance. Loved ones will have enough emotion and details to tend to without sitting in offices reviewing options and do not need to guess about your wishes.

I have attended the funerals of my parents and both of my sisters. The stories I heard from their friends and other family members were a great way to celebrate their lives and hear what they meant to others. It is both comforting and inspiring to learn from others in a formal situation one last time.

Your Stuff

I have seen and experienced this: no one wants your stuff. Furniture is one thing, but I want to talk for a minute about other stuff.

Mama didn’t have much paperwork. She regularly discarded paid bills once the checks cleared and didn’t keep things longer than necessary by law. My sisters had a lot of papers from work and home and sorting through all of that was very demanding for their adult children. I moved toward autopay and paperless billing several years ago and the convenience and the idea of not drowning in paperwork is great for me and my (very far in the future, I hope) survivors.

Emotions and Grief

I went to an Alzheimers Support Group and the leader mentioned “grief and relief” when someone dies of a disease that has tortured the mind and/or the body. I don't know what others feel but I experienced this with loved ones who had lingering illness. 

Sudden loss is very different and in these COVID-19 times, survivors may not have those public services in person and may not have the comforting touch or hug. It's hard for mourners. Online services are helpful but no substitute for our needs as people.

I found it helpful to identify online forums for certain illness and life situations and the information and support I felt (and gave) was priceless.

The heart has no clock and we can be triggered into loss, dismay and mourning when hearing a song, a joke you want to share, seeing old letters and photos or even some movies. If you experience this loss and mourning even years after loss, it's normal. It's also normal to remember your loved ones with smiles and even jokes.

There are times when you should get help from a support group or professional if you find you cannot climb out of your sorrow, if you're depressed. Seeking help is a good thing.

My friends, I've explored this unexpected topic of aging, accommodating, seeking help and ultimately mourning and it is quite a bit different from my original intentions of identifying resources for considering retirement.

I hope these posts have been helpful and I will return to the other topic next time. I am eager to share our experiences of retirement (or not!) and a move to an active senior (age 55+) community.

Take care,

Marcia

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