Last year I was invited to attend a team meeting regarding a client’s end of life care. I will refer to her as “Susan” although for privacy concerns that is not her real name. It was a very inspirational experience and I was honored to be a part of it. Discussing and planning for the inevitable is not always easy and I applaud her courage and forethought in convening such a difficult meeting. In recognizing the benefits of planning for this event, I appreciated her sentiments that having the conversation doesn’t actually make it happen. Just as denying and ignoring the subject does not prevent it either.
Susan did a significant amount of reading and research and presented her team with an agenda prior to the meeting. She assembled members of her family, advisors (like me), and especially friends. She espoused thinking outside the box when it comes to the conventional thought that only your spouse and close family are responsible for your end of life care. Your spouse/family might actually not be suited for this responsibility, especially if they are stuck in emotional dismay. Susan looked to match skill sets, believing the collective is stronger and wiser than just one person, especially if the one person you are depending on is a grieving spouse.
She facilitated her own meeting and gathered us from different geographic locations on a conference call. Everyone who lives in Anchorage met at my office and was treated to lunch afterwards. The agenda included introductions where she spoke about the role of each person on the team, including their skill sets and why she was thankful to have each person in her life and on her team. She talked about the team approach, sharing the burden, and matching strengths to support each other.
Then we hit the tough part of the agenda. Susan talked about how she envisioned her end of life. My takeaway was that she was able to express to us how important it is that she die with dignity and just what that meant to her. You might think that Susan is elderly or terminally ill, but this is not the case. She did, however, have the very personal experience of being the caretaker for her mother at the end of her life. She was able to convey some of that experience to those of us who have not yet been in that caregiving role. She knew what she did and did not want when it came to her own care. I remember Susan saying that she would like a presence in the room, but she doesn’t need to be entertained.
The meeting ended with the business part of the agenda, also known as the administration of her estate. Susan believes that you should put the effort into organizing your stuff and your money while you are still alive. Not that she is having any easier time with the personal property disposition list than the rest of us. I did ask her permission to write this story and she graciously allowed me to share the experience.
Some of the resources she referenced include: Share the Care by Cappy Capossela, Sheila Warnock and Sukie Miller. There is now a website trademarked after the book as well. The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo. The documentary, Alive Inside with Dan Cohen.
Cathie Straub, CPA, CFP®
Director, APCM Wealth Management for Individuals
APCM Wealth Management for Individuals is continuing our Empowered Women Smart Money Series this month. On Wednesday, September 28, 2016, we will be presenting a panel discussion on having the difficult conversations about family legacy and end of life care. We can turn these challenging conversations into an opportunity to carry our values, beliefs, and traditions across generations. Please contact Amber Frizzell: firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information or RSVP to attend the event.