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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Documents You Don't Want to Need

The brain scan turned up a rare condition. I’m a rarity, how do you like that? I am to see a neurosurgeon to discuss things sometime in the next few weeks, and I expect that I’ll find out it isn’t a very severe case, because I don’t have the severe and rather alarming symptoms that I read up on today after I got the phone call about it. Still, it makes me think I should try to organize my papers and things.

I’m always seeming to have these kinds of medical alarms that turn out not to be so bad after all, and they always make me pay attention to whether my will is current, whether my finances are in order, and whether anything could be done about the piles of papers on my desk. Well, you can forget the last of those items! The desk will forever remain an unfinished project.

Last time I was in the hospital, though, they brought me some forms for a living will and durable power of attorney and medical power of attorney. I had never thought much about those kinds of things, but when my sister-in-law was seriously ill for months, she was able to tell me and my husband where to look to get out and activate those documents on her behalf. It was a good thing she was prepared with those things, too! Her illness came on extremely suddenly and she was unable to take care of her own affairs for a couple of months, even to give directives regarding her own care at one point. We were very, very thankful she had been prodded to create those documents by her financial advisor. I think I should get prepared with those documents too. I should have all my legal and financial affairs in order. After all, you just never know when those things will be needed.

I have decided to write down everything I need to put in these things tomorrow morning. For the living will, I need to decide what sort of treatment I would want if my life were definitely ending, or what sort if machines could prolong my life indefinitely. For the power of attorney, I need to name someone to make my decisions if I become incompetent (ok, more so than now, you smart alecks). I used to think I would not want to live if I needed any interventions to keep me alive. But after seeing close family members undergo various kinds of life support, I have different ideas now. I have to think and plan carefully how to explain that it depends on how much cognitive function I have, how old I am, how my care is being paid for, who it impacts, and whether those impacted are the types who welcome caring for someone or who find it a great burden.

Personally, I like caring for people. I didn’t mind one bit caring for my dad until he died. Of course, I hardly got any experience there since he needed outside care only for about a month before he passed away. (He wanted to go, so I am glad he didn’t linger longer.) However, I have cared for a number of relatives who have been in varying states of less-than-stellar health. We joked earlier this year that I am running a nursing home where I am one of the patients. I wouldn’t want any of my relatives to think they should opt to end their lives just because otherwise they might be a burden on somebody (I have heard that idea suggested in my extended family). Sometimes being a so-called “burden” is one of the greatest blessings you can give to a loved one. I cannot imagine how shallow my life would be without caring for people who need help. It’s enriching. (I shoulda been a nurse, huh?)

Sigh. I won’t worry about getting started tonight. There’s genealogy to do. A novel to finish. My doggie needs to be petted. And we want to watch a travel show about Paris.

C’est la vie.

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