The Gift to Give Your Family and YourselfBy Tammy Hauck
What’s the most memorable gift you have ever received?
Here are some examples from other people:
- Coolest: “A fake ear made of silicon with a Van Gogh birthday card inside, in which
he wrote, ‘I’ll always be here to listen.’ He’s my best friend, and that’s the weirdest
but coolest gift I’ve gotten.”
- Meanest: “A lavender gift set (eye mask, cream, perfume) from my mother in law. I
am severely allergic to lavender, and she knows this.”
- “I once gave a friend a life-sized carved wooden hand because she was always
giving other people a hand – seemed like it was time she got one.”
Gifts are special – we express our love through giving and we feel loved when we receive. The giving and receiving of gifts creates memories. On gift giving occasions such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc., we are bombarded with gift suggestions. What are the 10 most popular gifts this year for children, what’s new in technology that will benefit that special person in your life, and on and on … We pause and listen, because we want to be original and creative. We also experience anxiety and pressure to not only give the perfect gift, but to react appropriately when we receive one, even if we are disappointed.
Other ways we gift people are with our time, our energy, our attention, or even simple ways such as when my adult son notifies me that he has arrived safely when he’s traveling or my husband puts gas in my car.
As I navigate the aging process I am learning more and more that planning for my future is a true gift – one that blesses my spouse, my son, and myself. So what does that type of planning entail?
Below are a just a few suggestions:
- Important Papers
- Power of Attorney Healthcare
- Power of Attorney Financial
- Advance Directives
- Health Information such as doctors, surgeries,
- Deeds, Life Insurance Policies, Long Term
Care Policies, Bank Accounts, Investments,
- Downsize NOW
- Get healthy NOW
- Move NOW
- Have that uncomfortable conversation NOW. Tell people what your wishes are
NOW. Alleviate your family from having to decide for you NOW
Why is “planning” this gift to your family so important?
We had to make the decision to remove our mother from life support. While incredibly difficult, we knew we were respecting her wishes, wishes she had conveyed BEFORE the health episode that took her life, BEFORE she was unconscious and WE had to make that decision. She removed that burden from us.
Each time we travel by plane, I have anxiety that my will is not up to date, that my son will have to deal with all our “stuff,” that he doesn’t know anything about our finances, and that he won’t know where to start. While I am sure that he will do just fine, I am equally sure that he will be frustrated that we made a difficult situation worse by not planning. He doesn’t have a need to know the details now, but he does need to know where to find the information.
Why is planning such a gift so important to yourself?
Giving myself this gift ensures that I can make decisions regarding my own future while I am still in the driver’s seat. I can align my end of life journey choices with my desires and my values. I can protect my assets as much as possible so that I never become a financial burden and guarantee my healthcare access, choosing my own service provider.
I work in a continuing care retirement community and it has been such an education. Now, at age 60, I have outlined a path for myself after 10 years spent observing those who plan versus those who don’t. I’ve watched families scramble for services and call in desperation when a crisis occurs versus our staff working with families to plan the best outcome for our residents. I’ve watched people live far beyond normal life expectancies because they have access to education, healthy meals, a wellness clinic, and other amenities in our community. I’ve advocated for people in my social sphere (friends’ parents, church members) who have experienced crisis with no plan in place and had to accept whatever services they could find, who didn’t have pertinent information such as insurance cards, doctors, medications or surgeries at their fingertips – families who had no powers of attorney and no decision-making ability regarding their spouse or parent, no access to the
money to pay bills …. the list goes on.
So why do we wait?
As one of our residents at Carlyle Place says: “It is too soon until it is too late.”
- Denial: As with many things in life, we believe that “it” will never happen to us, or
that we will have time. Can you honestly know how your health will change and
- Not understanding what true caregiving is: Our children often promise us that
they will take care of us, when their idea of care may be to drive us to a doctor’s
appointment and drop a meal off here and there. We don’t think of the intimacy of
the care we may eventually need … from feeding to toileting.
- Things will work out. Yes, things will work out, but to the best possible outcome?
We spend our lives preparing for the next step from what college we’ll attend to
what career path we will take to who we will marry to how many children, if any, we
want and the list goes on. When it comes to retirement and aging and end of life
plans, we seem to think it “just happens.”