A place for all of us to brainstorm and share on ways to plan and prepare for a medical emergency. No one likes to think about this, but when something happens, being prepared allows you to focus on what's important - getting you or your loved one well!
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My mother passed close to seven years ago and through her death, our family fell apart. I have not spoken with a sister of mine for five, or is it six years, and thought perhaps we never would speak again. She cut me off completely. I remember calling her at least five years ago and asking her to come visit us. Actually, I had my daughter call her and ask her to come out, figuring she couldn't say no to that darling little voice, but she did. After reaching out several other times, I gave up. It was too painful to try to keep that relationship alive.
You ask what made this relationship fall apart so badly? It boiled down to both of us acting incredibly poorly when my mother became ill and passed in a short five months. I will take half the blame, but you cannot tango alone, as the saying goes. Fractured families are very common with those of us who are unprepared for a medical emergency.
This last weekend, another one of my sisters, Sandy, came to visit for the first time since my mother passed. It was wonderful to have her here and we had a blast. I'm so thankful she finally got up the courage to come back to where there were such painful memories. We did not talk about how long it had been or why she had always said no when I invited her to visit us: We just enjoyed being sisters. And she got to be part of my family's celebration of my youngest daughter's official debut as the leading lady, Josephine, in "HMS Pinafore." (I'll post the video of Journey's solo in the next week or so.)
Another highlight of the weekend is that I spoke with my other sister who had cut me out of her life for so many years. Sandy was talking with her on the phone and Sandy said "Here, you tell her," and she handed me the phone, while my other sister proceeded to stroll down memory lane with a story from our past. I handed the phone back to Sandy and started to choke up. My eyes filled with tears and I thought I was going to break down right then and there (we were in the Denver airport, so I was trying hard to keep it together!). I told my sister that I wished she were there with us and she said she would come out and visit us.
What made her change? I'm not sure. Perhaps she realized that life is too short without every single loved one being in your life. She is getting older (btw, I'm the young, beautiful one now...) and perhaps her defenses are becoming weaker. I think I'm at the stage of my maturity where I don't care what is making her change. I am willing to get out there and risk my heart again.
Mother, if you are watching, I'm sure you are letting out a long-held breathe. A breathe you held for the last seven years while our family healed itself from losing you.
Many of us don't know what a Financial Durable Power of Attorney and a Medical Durable Power of Attorney are or how they work.
For now, if you can separate the two as giving power to act for you regarding your finances (Financial Durable Power of Attorney) and the power to act for you regarding your medical decisions(Medical Durable Power of Attorney). The Durable aspect of these powers is another blog, which I promise I'll write in the near future.
If you are unfamiliar with these two types of power you can give to another person, it may sound kind of scary to give that much power to someone else. What if they abuse this power and take all of your money? What if they don't come to the hospital and make sure you are taken care should you not be able to speak?
These are very real concerns and that is why it is important to choose your agents (people who step into your shoes for you when you need their help). We'll be talking more about how to choose an agent another day, but for now, choose these people carefully, just as you will your childrens' guardians.
As a brief introduction into these two powers that are a regular part of your legal papers that your estate lawyer will help you with, take a look at the comparison table I've included here. Even if you don't understand anything more than this table when you talk with your estate lawyer, you'll be doing better than most people.
This topic of durable powers of attorney has so many sub-topics that it will take a while for us to work through everything. We'll take it nice and easy and break out the chunks of information into easy to understand language. This is a good first step.
My mom's best friend, Wilma, called last night, distraught because her husband, Chuck, is in the hospital with some very serious complications and pain. I was ready to jump in my car and drive to the hospital when she told me the doctor had not yet examined Chuck. That sort of situation drives me absolutely crazy.
I asked Wilma if she had contacted the Patient Advocate or Social Worker at the hospital to get some help and she had, but the woman was ready to go home as it was Friday night. Scary situation. It will be a very long weekend for Wilma and Chuck.
I recently came across a program put together by Bart Windrum, Hospital Patient Advocate, which states on Bart's website:
"Axiom Action’s Hospital Patient Advocate is dedicated to, and focused on, helping patient-family members understand why we're at unanticipated risk. Bart's how-to publications and presentations tell how you can and why you must help yourself and your hospitalized loved ones. Bart's insights help providers experience their world from the patient-family's perspective."
The reason I mention Bart's program is that my program is all about getting ready for a medical emergency, while Bart's program helps people once they are in the hospital. Our programs complement one another and I can't wait to learn more about his program when Bart and I meet in the near future.
I'll let you know what I learn after talking with Bart. In the meanwhile, check out his website and his services.
It sounds so easy. Write down who gets what and sign the paper. There is your will! Not so fast, I say! And come to find out, so does the Colorado Bar Association (CBA).
The Colorado Bar publishes great brochures relating to wills, guardianships, and what to do when someone dies (see the end of this blog for the link to these brochures). What do they have to say about hand-written wills?
"How should a will be done?
A will may be handwritten or typed, and it must be signed and dated by the willmaker (or at the willmaker’s direction). The will must be witnessed by two uninterested parties, and should be notarized. You are strongly encouraged to work with an attorney to write your will, but Colorado generally recognizes handwritten, or “holographic,” wills. Drafting a will requires special skills, and holographic wills are frequently found to be ambiguous or defective, causing delay, expense, and possibly litigation."
I speak from experience when I say handwritten wills are not a good thing to do. My mother wrote out her wishes on a sheet of paper and gave it to me. When she became ill, I completely forgot about it as I had not looked at it for years. And come to find out, her "will" was really more of a medical declaration of what she wanted to happen during a medical emergency or the end of her life.
Had she had a lawyer help her with her will and medical declarations, I really believe that the end of her life would have been much easier, not just on her, but on her loved ones, too. With five daughters, all very strong minded, I might add, we all had ideas of how Mom should be taken care of. But what did Mom want? We all remembered different conversations with Mom and brought in our own flavor of what to do at the end of life. It was very difficult for all of us, something I know my mom would never have wanted for us.
When thinking about writing your own legal documents, please think again. It may sound easy to write down what you want to happen after you die, but it can turn out to be a whole different story when you are no longer here to clarify questions that come up. This is especially important when deciding who will care for your minor children.
Don't take chances that your legal documents will meet state requirements and everyone will know what you want from a piece of paper with your signature on it. Find an estate lawyer to work with.
Not sure how to find an estate lawyer? Check out my book that has a section dedicated to finding and working with estate lawyers: Six Easy Steps to Find the Right Estate Lawyer for You.
I promise you, it will be less expensive to work with an estate lawyer now than to have a court step in after you are gone because your handwritten will is not considered valid. Do it once and do it right. Your loved ones will thank you!