Preparing to Cross the Finish Line
Since the beginning of time, humans have pondered end-of-life issues. Over 200 years ago, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." And where is he now? Woody Allen famously said, “I'm not afraid of death; I just don't want to be there when it happens.”
Mr. Franklin was right; however, we know when taxes are due, but we don’t necessarily know when the Grim Reaper will show up. And Mr. Allen aside, we will be there when it happens, and so will those we leave behind. It behooves us, as a kindness to our loved ones, to plan for that final appointment.
Death is an unpleasant subject but it stalks everyone, from infants to centenarians. It can come without warning, so the time to prepare is now, especially if you or your loved one has heartfelt wishes for how the final years are spent.
The Patient’s Will for a Last Will
The stereotypical opening line of a last will and testament begins with, “I, (name), being of sound mind, do hereby bequeath . . . ) Then, the testator lists the beneficiaries of his or her estate and other last wishes. The “sound mind” part is key to establishing the validity of the will and making sure the testator’s last wishes are carried out. When a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, it is important for the patient and caregivers to initiate legal procedures, like wills and power of attorney, while the patient can actively and coherently participate (*legal capacity).
Putting legal matters in order in advance can prevent confusion and even conflict over caregiving responsibilities and inheritance matters. It allows time to navigate complex legal and financial issues that can arise with long-term and end-of-life care situations. (NOTE: This article is not intended to provide legal advice and should not be taken as such.)
Hoarding Disorder is a mental and physical health issue. Unlike simple clutter, which is generally confined to particular storage locations like garages and basements, hoarding involves collections of unrelated junk that take over normal living spaces, making normal living very challenging. Even moving through the home is difficult due to blocked exits and narrow pathways through the piles of possessions. Even beds and kitchen appliances can be covered up, and what great hiding places for insects and vermin!
Hoarders rarely use what they have stored up, although they become attached to their possessions and experience great anxiety at the thought of losing them. These collections may have little or no practical value, and there seems to be no logic to their accumulation. As you can imagine, this disorder causes great anxiety for the hoarder’s loved ones.
Do you remember Roots? Not those things that keep you from pulling up the toughest weeds, but Alex Haley’s blockbuster book and miniseries. It encouraged a flurry of resources for discovering where our families came from and what famous (or infamous) person made us who we are. Currently, the TV series finding your roots gives viewers the opportunity to watch celebrities laugh and cry and go silent when they discover shocking ancestors they never knew they had. Memory-care patients can be a source of family memories about ancestors they may soon forget they have, so now is the time to work on preserving their memories to pass on to the family.