Strategy? What strategy?! I don’t know that many people who make a practice of contemplating their own deaths. It’s just not most people’s idea of fun, and some are even superstitious that if they think about death or prepare for it, they’re inviting it. I don’t know if it’s good news or bad news. Maybe it depends on how old you are and how good or bad you feel. Either way, the news is that we don’t have to invite death. The moment we’re born death is invited to find us one day. That’s just the way it is.
So? What’s your plan? I’ve found nursing homes distasteful ever since I had to go with my Girl Scout troop and sing Christmas carols at one when I was in 5th or 6th grade. Oh, I tried to get over it. I even completed the training to work as a nursing aide in one, but I only lasted one day before I simply knew that wasn’t the job for me. I’ve let my family know that I would prefer to age in place and have a hired caregiver take care of me in my home when I’m no longer able to care for myself. We’ve talked about Advance Medical Directives, about asking a lot of questions before allowing doctors to perform surgeries that probably won’t benefit the patient or lead to recovery and good quality of life. They’ve chosen what cookie tin they want to put my ashes in. I haven’t got it all down in writing yet, but at least we’ve talked about it. These are just a few things to consider.
If you need help with your planning, there are plenty of resources online. One I’ve recently looked at is www.everplans.com. This site has information about the following topics: will, power of attorney, life insurance, trusts, advance medical directives, funerals, important documents, eldercare, death, and Do Not Resuscitate orders (also known as Allow Natural Death orders). Each of these by itself is a big topic. Most of them are hard to think about, and even harder to make firm decisions about. For example, if your heart stops beating or you stop breathing, do you want medical staff to resuscitate you, or to allow your life to end? Are there any conditions under which your answer would be different? What are those conditions? Who will make those decisions for you if you aren’t able to make them yourself? Have you talked it over with them and gotten their agreement? Have you formalized it in an Advance Medical Directive? Does everyone know where your directive is, and can they access it in an emergency?
If you haven’t begun thinking about these things, it’s time. It’s also time to start talking about them. Do you want your family to honor your wishes? If you don’t discuss your plans with your family, then they have to guess what your wishes are, and they might get it wrong. Suppose my father hadn’t prepared an advance directive and let us know beyond doubt that he did not want his life, or his dying process, extended by machines? We might have let the doctors perform a surgery that wouldn’t have improved his quality of life and would have resulted in his spending the remainder of his days on a respirator. He was a career United States Air Force officer. Suppose he hadn’t told us he didn’t want to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery? What if we hadn’t known he wanted to be buried in North Dakota with my brothers and his parents? I’m grateful he saved us the guesswork and the potential for disagreement.
Begin the planning. Take it step by step, allow yourself the time you need, and make thoughtful choices. Preparation leads to peace of mind for both you and your family. If you don’t like the tin they’ve selected for your remains, you can replace it with one you like.