Thursday, January 20, 2011
Mapping Life's Journey
Benjamin Franklin supposedly said that nothing in this world is certain except death and taxes. Most of us ante up in due course to pay our taxes, but few of us seem comfortable discussing death and about how we’d like to get from today to our last minute.
Part of that discussion, of course, would be how we want to be cared for and who will make our financial and healthcare decisions when we are no longer able to do so. Wise seniors think through those issues, discuss them with family, and sign off on legal documents—called advanced directives—to guide family members and care-givers as they help us through our final days.
Yes, Ellen and I each have advance directives—a medical directive and a power of attorney. We took copies of our powers of attorney to our bank more than 10 years ago. Last week I stopped by the bank and asked if they still have the photocopies they made and filed. “We’re 10 years older now, and we just want to make sure everything is in order,” I said.
Click, click went the assistant branch manager’s computer keys. “Hmm,” she said. “We don’t have any indication of POAs for you and your wife in our computer system.” Somehow the contents of that old manila folder didn’t make it into the computerized system.
This week I took our current POAs to the bank and the assistant explained how the bank would relate to us and our designated representative in the future as circumstances change.
Even though we have advance directives, I find it still helpful to read current articles about them and occasionally to review my documents to make sure they’re still what I want. The most recent article I’ve read is “Life-or-death decisions call for advance planning,” by Michelle Andrews, published recently by the Washington Post in collaboration with Kaiser Health News.
Most articles about advance directives seem to me to be pep talks to encourage people to make sure they have them, but this article went beyond the rah-rah-rah and discussed issues that I found meaningful, and you may too.
For instance, what kind of person would make the most effective surrogate decision-maker? What could happen if your scenario doesn’t fit the words of your advance directive?
The article also points out something important to Internet readers: Names of advance directives sometimes vary from state to state, and state laws about advance directives vary, so you should get local legal advice.
Regardless of your age, if you don’t have advance directives, read the article to find out what they are, and, really, isn’t it about time you start a discussion that ends with your signing off on your own documents?
If you have advance directives, great. But do read this article—and review your documents.
To read the Post/Kaiser Health News article, CLICK HERE.