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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

National Healthcare Decision Day - Part 2

April 16th is National Healthcare Decision Day.

Last week, we brought up the benefits of a Healthcare Power of Attorney, not only for yourself and your elderly parents, but also for your adult children.  This week, we will explore the family and psychological benefits of having not only a Healthcare Power of Attorney but other documents that will speak for us when we no longer can speak for ourselves.

Those We Leave Behind

Me and Dad in St Andrews, Scottland
My father died a little over 6 years ago.  He and I were close.  Fortunately, I'm at that stage now, when I think of him, that "a smile comes to my face before a tear comes to my eye."  But I still miss him, especially when things are a bit rough.

He had a wonderful way of letting me know that he understood what I was going through, and he would put his arm on my shoulder and say, "It will be OK."  I don't know how he did it, but he was always right.  His encouragement and validation will stay with me forever.  What a gift!

Those you leave behind will mourn.  You will be missed.  Those who love you will be in pain.  And though you won't be physically there to put your arm around those who miss you and say, "It will be OK," you can still provide love, encouragement and validation even after you die.  You do that by letting them know, while you are still alive, what you want them to do for you if and when you can no longer let anyone know what your wishes are.

A living will, Healthcare Power of Attorney or Do Not Resuscitate Order provides not only instructions, but is a gift to your family.  It says, "I trust you.  I know you'll make the right decision."  And when your family does make that decision, they'll know they did so with your blessing.  You may not be able to leave a fortune to your family, but you can leave them something even more important - the knowledge that they did the right thing, and all the good feelings that go with that.

We Don't Always Make Nice

If you raised more than one child, you know that one job of a parent is being a referee.  Sibling spats are normal, common and usually soon forgotten.  As a parent, you help resolve these disputes so that you can see all your children grow up to become best friends with each other, have your grandchildren know the joys of having cousins, and simply enjoy family parties and celebrations.

But sometimes, those childish spats leave scars that are easily aggravated in tough times.  The death of a parent can bring out the best or worst in a family.  Old spats can be relived, with some children wanting a seemingly insignificant possession, not because it meant something to them, but simply because they did not want their brother or sister to have it.   That can be sad for a family, but even though you are not physically around, you can still act as a referee.

After my wife's and my attorney prepared our will, Healthcare Power of Attorney, trusts and other documents, he instructed us to write a letter letting our children know what of the small personal possessions we wanted each of them to have.  It's not legally binding, and the kids can make changes if they agree, but it gives a starting point for dividing our possessions.  It may prevent a dispute or some hurt feelings.

It's Not Spooky

The thought of reaching back into the world of the living after we're gone might seem spooky, but it happens all the time.  The things we do, good or bad, or the things we don't do, also good or bad, leave echoes in this world that reverberate for generations. 

Why not take control?  Use National Healthcare Decision Day as a reminder and an excuse to make sure you let your family know your wishes.
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