Welcome to House of Light, a blog produced and managed by the staff of Casa de la Luz Hospice. Casa de la Luz ("house of light" in Spanish) is a locally owned and operated hospice, serving the city and surrounding communities of Tucson, Arizona. Through this blog, we hope to offer education, information, and support about caregiving and hospice care to terminally ill patients and their loved ones. For more information, visit the contact us page.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Choosing A Plan--The Importance of Advance Directives

In my business I am called on to be a coach, a consultant, a mediator, and a guide. Many folks know what they need to do but they don’t do it; many folks talk the talk but they don’t walk the walk. I try to hold folks accountable by not just giving them the Five Wishes, but then following up with them to make sure they filled it out.

The statistics show that Americans are still inadequately prepared for the end of life. This is not a question of if; it is a question of when. Now is the time to start planning.

So with that, how will you be remembered? Let’s go back to high school quickly. How did you think you'd be remembered?

I always thought I’d be remembered because Jerome Smith stepped on my skirt and it was elastic waist and was at my ankles, or because I went to the junior homecoming dance with Logan Smiley, the class clown, and he convinced me to actually dress as a clown with half my face black and the other half white.

But no, that's not how I have been remembered.

I am remembered because I was student body president and just 10 days after my father’s unexpected death, I delivered a speech at our high school graduation to my fellow seniors to fly! To spread their wings and fly. How were you remembered?

As I look back, I am grateful that we are not remembered for the chaos that surrounded our lives because of a lack of planning. My father had no will, no business exit strategy, and no Five Wishes. He simply was gone.

I believe that experience alone has shaped a large part of who I am, why I do what I do, and what my message is for you today. My take is you have two basic choices: choose a plan or choose chaos. If you choose to do nothing, you are actually choosing the law that is written for you and ultimately, choosing chaos. Do you want your legacy to be he or she didn't plan and now, it’s a mess?

We spend time planning for our weekend, our vacation, our Thanksgiving dinner, yet we don’t spend time discussing our plans for retirement or our health or our legacy. Through my work, I find folks don't take the time and don't want to talk about it. Here are some how to tips.

·        Set a goal.
·        Set a deadline and have a third party hold you accountable.
·        Review and make changes on your birthday and anniversary.
·        Like Nike says, just do it.

Many spend a lot of time planning financially, but health care will eat it up if you are fighting a long-term or chronic illness. When I do generational and holistic planning, we look at everything you have done, everything you wish for, and see if the plan meets the wishes. Then, we tweak if necessary. The Five Wishes is used in each client meeting because I see it as an integral part of a strong financial plan. More and more people want to make sure that their money will do what they want it to do during their lifetimes and want to leave a legacy as effectively and efficiently as possible. Regardless of age, social, or economic status everyone needs to plan! Everyone needs to communicate their wishes.

Gail Sheehy, the author of Passages in Caregiving—Turning Chaos into Confidence, talks about having a family meeting and creating a circle of care before the crisis. Many families are caught off guard by the “call” and everything changes. If you have a plan of what everyone is willing to do, what talents each brings to the group, the time each is willing to give, and all communicating their wishes, it will  make the “call” go a bit smoother.

The Five Wishes lets folks in before the crisis. I hope you choose to start planning today.

By Tiana Ronstadt, Casa de la Luz Foundation’s Vice President, Community Outreach and Public Relations, and also the Founder and President of Power Women Investing

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