Let’s Talk Boomer Legal and Advance Care Planning

 

 

Getting your “powers of attorney” completed — the Advance Health Care Directive and the Durable Powers of Attorney — is probably more important than executing your Will or your Trust. Why? Because, as is discussed below, the Executor of your Will is only authorized to distribute your “stuff” when you are dead; an Executor has no authority to do anything while you are alive; and nothing to say about your health or finances. While a trust can have effect in your lifetime as well as after your death (if you cannot manage your affairs, the trustee can “step up to the plate” to handle only those assets which are in the trust), again, it is limited in its scope. Meanwhile, should you have an accident or stroke, or should you lose your ability to make health and financial decisions for any reason for any period of time, your agent whom you named in your Advance Health Care Directive will have the authority – in writing – to discuss your situation with your doctors, ask for and receive medical reports, relate your concerns to the doctors and hospital personnel and make the kinds of decisions you would want made about your health care, including end of life care, nutrition, hydration and hospice care. And, the agent whom you named in the Durable Power of Attorney for Property and Finances will have authority, again, in writing, to handle those matters for you at your bank, brokerage, with your government benefits, with your property. If you have not prepared these two documents in advance, had them witnessed or notarized (a DPAP must be notarized because it controls property and finances), you could well find yourself in a CONSERVATORSHIP of your PERSON, your ESTATE or both. You do not want to be in any type of conservatorship.

 

POWER OF ATTORNEY: THE IMPORTANCE AND TYPES OF DESIGNEE

 

A Power of Attorney is a document that authorizes someone of your choosing, your “agent” or “attorney in fact” to make financial and property decisions for you should you be unable or incapable of making them. There are several types of powers of attorney: a Durable Power of Attorney means that the power you have authorized will endure after you are incapacitated. You could sign a durable power of attorney now that is immediately effective, meaning that your agent may act tomorrow, even though you are still competent to act.

 

You may want to execute a “springing” Power of Attorney, which means the Person you authorize to act must wait for an event to take place before s/he may act. You may want your power of attorney to come into effect on a specific date, say, your 80th birthday. Most people want a power of attorney to come into effect when your primary doctor has determined that you are no longer able to make financial decisions in your best interest. This determination requires a doctor’s intervention and medical examination.

 

There are “general” Powers of Attorney which can be short range or specific to a particular event. For example, you will be out of the country when the escrow on your house closes and you authorize a trusted person to complete the necessary paperwork for the sale. Or you authorize your accountant to make inquiry into your bank accounts.

 

These must be signed and notarized powers of attorney; they may have a limited time period: “From January 1, 2012 to April 15, 2012, from today to the sale closing”.

 

There is a short (3 page), Uniform Statutory Form Power of Attorney available on line; as well as longer, more complex DPAPs drafted by attorneys. Please be advised that a Durable Power of Attorney is a very powerful legal document and can be very dangerous if misused. You want your agent to have the widest scope of powers available. However, it is just such a broad set of authorities that presents the greatest risks of abuse. Choose your agent(s) wisely. If your DPAP is effective immediately, your agent should have a copy. If not, your primary agent should at least know where to find the document should it become necessary to use it.

 

ADVANCE HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE: HOW TO MAKE IT A LEGAL DOCUMENT AND WHO SHOULD HAVE A COPY

 

Only a few years ago, Advance Care Health Directives were not considered important, if they were even known about. You may or may not recall the Terri Schiavo story which was all over the news for a period of time until she died on March 31, 2005.

 

Basically, Terri had been in what is known as a “persistent vegetative state” for about five years following some medical event. Her husband repeatedly stated that Terri and he had discussed the possibility of either of them being unable to communicate their wishes about healthcare and life saving measures; and that Terri had expressed her wish that she not be kept on life-saving procedures. However, Terri’s parents argued forcefully that she should be kept alive. The bottom line was that TERRI DID NOT HAVE A SIGNED HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE. Everyone got involved, including the President of the country. We cannot say for certain that had Terri had a written advance health care directive, things would have gone more smoothly with fewer participants. However, what became clear was that a signed writing was the minimum necessary for a hospital or a court to acknowledge a person’s end of life wishes.

 

An Advance Health Care Directive is a document which authorizes someone of your choosing, your “agent” or “attorney in fact” to make health care decisions for you should you be unable, incapable, of making them. You may write in your own words or simply initial choices presented on a printed form. The agent named on this form has authorities you give her/him: about where you want to live if you become too ill to live at home; who may visit you in a hospital; about kinds of end-of-life care you may wish or not want; about any kinds of religious or spiritual services; about burial, cremation; and the person named in this document has the authority to claim your body at the hospital.

 

There are short forms and long forms. You can contact the California Medical Association to get an Advance Health Care Kit in several different languages (www.cmanet.org); there is an Aging with Dignity: Five Wishes booklet available which includes an advance health care directive.

 

You’ll want to be sure that your agents agree with your end-of-life decisions and will represent them to your doctors. As with a Durable Power of Attorney, you may give your agent immediate authority to handle your health care even though you are still capable of making decisions. Or, you may choose to have the document effective only after your doctor or doctors, in consultation with your agent, have determined that you lack the capacity to manage your health care. Which kind of document you choose is important; but making that decision is NOT an excuse for not executing a document as soon as possible. As long as you are competent, you may always amend it, replace it. But if you do not have one, chances that you will need a conservatorship of your person are great, too great to wait.

 

PHYSICIAN ORDERS FOR LIFE-SUSTAINING TREATMENT

 

Like the Advance Health Care Directive, but narrower in its scope, a California state POLST as it is known, is a document which sets forth your wishes for end-of-life care: do you want CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation); kinds of comfort care; nutrition.

 

However, this form is signed by your doctor with whom you have discussed your situation; and your doctor has effectively agreed to treat you as you wish. There are endorsed POLST programs and developing POLST programs throughout the states.

 

The California form is a bright pink form which is made to stand out among your papers accompanying you to a hospital. You can find the document on the internet at www.polst.org. This is a newer form; its use is not widespread. For many people, it may be too specific; but you should check it out.

 

LIVING WILL

 

A “living will” is basically a statement about the kinds of end-of-life care that you want your physicians to perform. It speaks directly to the physician, eliminating the need for an agent to act as an intermediary. For many people who do not have anyone they would trust, or want to burden, with making health care decisions, this document makes his or her wishes known to the physician. Even without designating an agent, the AHCD can also direct a physician to provide the kinds of medical care or end-of-life care that the principal wants when he or she is no longer capable of explaining them to anyone. This form effectively skips to the chase: it is about not wanting to be kept on artificial life support. As with the Advance Health Care Directive, it must be completed and executed by the principal while he or she has legal capacity to know what is being signed. It should be given to your medical provider to keep with your medical files.

 

WILL

 

Your “will,” what used to be known as a “Last Will and Testament” basically is a document that has no effect until you die. You may change it during your life, but must execute a codicil and have it witnessed with the same formalities as the original will. If you change the will too often there can be complications at your death regarding the ‘correct’ or ‘last’ distribution plan. At your death, the person you nominate as your Executor will distribute your property according to the Will. However, your will may have to be probated; see below.

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A “LIVING WILL” AND A “WILL”

 

OK, that’s easy; but it’s one of the most misunderstood differences. .A “will” is about property when you die. A ‘living’ will is about your health: keep me alive; pull the plugs. There used to be a separate form in California for a living will. Now, that form is rolled into the Advance Health Care Directive

 

Helene V. Wenzel is a solo practitioner in estate planning and elder law who prepares wills, trusts, durable powers of attorney, advance health care directives, trust administration and probate. Her elder law practice focuses on planning for incapacity, conservatorships, long-term and nursing home care, asset management and Medi-Cal eligibility. She is past president of the Northern California Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (www.NAELA.org), the largest elder law association of attorneys in the country. Helene regularly addresses community meetings, attorneys and other concerned professionals about estate planning and elder law concerns.

 

••••• January 2015 Issue  •••••

 

Coping with the Holidays During Periods of Personal Bereavement

 

 

 

 

Christmastide is the festival season from Christmas Eve until after New Year’s Day.

 

 

Christmas is observed as a legal holiday that commemorates the birth of Christ—a feast on December 25, or as celebrated by some of the Eastern Orthodox faith, on or near January 6. It is observed with religious ceremonies and prayer.

 

The word Christmas comes from the early English phrase Christes Masse, which means Christ’s Mass.

 

Many people write Xmas instead of Christmas. This form of the name originated in the early Christian Church. In Greek, X is the first letter of Christ’s name. It was frequently used as a holy symbol.

 

Christmas is a family occasion—relatives gather to exchange gifts and share their happiness.

 

The custom of exchanging Christmas gifts is a tradition associated with the gifts the Wise Men brought the Christ Child. Gifts are homemade or bought and wrapped with bright paper and ribbons.

 

Santa, a symbol of gift giving, creates and atmosphere of cheerfulness.

 

Family dinner consists of: meat, potatoes, vegetables, dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, nuts and fruits. Dessert: fruit cake, plum pudding, pumpkin or mince pie. Drinks: eggnog.

 

Usually the word “White Christmas” is associated with snow at Christmastime. It is also a term associated with churches and social groups celebrated as a way of sharing. Several days before Christmas, members of the group wrap canned goods, turkeys, and other foods in white paper. They distributed these gifts to needy persons in the community. This tradition continues today with receptacles throughout the city for donating food items or purchasing a $10 bag of groceries for supermarkets to donate to a charity. (The World Book Encyclopedia)

 

Holiday Coping Strategies

 

This article is intended to provide solace for families coping with an anticipated loss or who have lost a family member this year.

 

To all my readers, may you and your loved ones enjoy a Merry Christmas and a healthy New Year.

 

Evaluate Your Coping Plans

 

♥ Do your plans isolate you?

 

♥ Do your plans reflect what a particular holiday means for you?

 

♥ The most difficult part of the holiday season?

 

♥ The most difficult people to be with?

 

♥ Grief triggers?

 

♥ Traditions you want to include?

 

♥ Traditions you do not want to include?

 

♥ People you would like to be with you?

 

♥ People you do not want to spend the holidays with?

 

♥ Things that might help you when you are feeling intense grief?

 

 

Assert Yourself

 

Dr. Louis E. LaGrand offers the following advice in his book Healing Grief, Finding Peace:

 

♥ Your needs come first. Tell family and friends specifically what you can and cannot do.

 

♥ You may want to eat out, have someone else hold it this year, or have others assume more responsibility.

 

♥ You don’t have to follow the exact schedule or routines of the past. Consider starting a new tradition.

 

♥ There is nothing wrong with reducing the amount of time you spend at events or in preparation for the day. Tell all concerned what your level of participation will be.

 

♥ Find a way to symbolically honor your deceased loved one. Make it a habit to acknowledge the memory of your loved one at major family events. It’s okay if tears flow.

 

♥ Tell yourself and accept the fact that the holidays will be different. Identify what emotions you are feeling and express them to your grief companion.

 

♥ Diligently manage your anticipation. Keep things simple and focus on the values, beliefs, joy, and wisdom of the deceased. Remember that laughter and a smile are still important parts of life.

 

 

Providing Emotional Support for Kids During the Holidays

 

1. Be aware of the behavior of adults, particularly parents on a grieving child. Parents must let the child know that adult tears are not a rejection of the child.

 

2. Don’t avoid long-standing family tradition. Traditions are often comfortable for the children (e.g. decorating the tree, lighting the candles, the big family dinner). Focus on available support from family and close friends.

 

3. Create a specific time during the holiday season to talk as a family about favorite memories of the person who dies.

 

4. Provide children with special amounts of attention, praise and emotional support.

 

5. Take an active role in helping the child cope.

 

6. Pay attention to cues and talk openly about how natural it is to be thinking of your loved one.

 

7. Recognize that the child may have questions about the death…Be patient and honest in your answers.

 

8. Provide reassurance through actions as well as words.

 

9. Recognize that children need to talk, not just to be talked to.

 

©Suggestions provided by: Hospice by the Bay, from: Helping Children Cope With Grief, by Dr. Alan Wolfelt—printed with permission of Hospice by the Bay for inclusion in Elder Caregivers NEWSLETTER – October 2003, p. 8.

 

 

Tips for Adults on Providing Emotional Support for Adolescents

 

They should be listened to and allowed to ventilate their feelings, whether they be guilt, anger or plain sadness. (Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, MD, On Death and Dying, p. 185.)

 

Writing a Sympathy Note

 

How to write a letter to enclose with a holiday card to someone who has experienced the death of a loved one?

 

Barbara Kate Repa, Senior Editor at Caring.com has these suggestions:

 

♥ A handwritten note.

 

♥ Avoid explanations or excuses for tardiness.

 

♥ The note can be brief or long. The intent is to convey that you are thinking of him or her and sending support.

 

♥ Concentrate on extending sympathy rather than personal updates. Do not inject recounting your own loss.

 

♥ If you do not know what to say, phrases often used are:

 

With deepest sympathy,

 

Our heartfelt condolences,

 

My heart goes out to you and your family.

 

I’m so sorry for your loss.

 

_______ will be sorely missed.

 

Your family is in my thoughts and prayers.

 

♥ Use the deceased’s name.

 

♥ Talk about the deceased. Include specific comments about the person who died—an anecdote that captured the person’s personality, comment on how the person inspired or taught you or made you happy.

 

♥ Skip the unpleasantries (drudging up past disagreements, sums of money owed, comparison to other relatives’ death, apologies or explanations for having been out of touch or less-than-flattering words about the deceased).

 

♥ Avoid platitudes—clichés about death.

 

♥ Write from your heart.

 

♥ Include your return address and full name.

 

(www.caring.com/articles/sympathy--note)

 

 

Chef’s Corner

 

Everyone is invited to share your favorite holiday recipes for appetizers, soups, salads, meat, potatoes, dressing, gravy, desserts (cakes, pudding, pies), beverages and their history for easy-to-prepare meals for seniors and caregivers at Caring for an Aging Loved One Forum at http://forums. delphiforums.com/elder_care. Nutrition. Click on Holiday Recipes.

 

 

Support Groups

 

Support groups reduce the sense of isolation, become networks for cultivating new friends who understand what you are going through, provide a place where you can really tell it like it is. (Dr. Louis LaGrand. Healing Grief, Finding Peace, p. 169.)

 

Association for Death Education and Counseling. www.adec.org. Networking Groups: Online year-round on ADEC’s group page on Linked-In. Free for members to join and participate in discussions, share links and resources, ask questions and meet fellow ADEC members. Participation in Networking Groups is limited to ADEC members. To join, send an email to the Networking Group Chair. Bereavement Support Groups: Grief and Families. Grief at Work. Grief Camp. Hospital-Based Bereavement Programs.

 

Pathways. www.pathwayshealth.org/grief-support/support-groups.html. From September through June, Pathways provides separate support groups for loss of a parent, a spouse or a child. Groups examine common grief issues such as coping skills, loneliness, anger, “normal” grief and lifestyle changes. Afternoons (San Francisco – Weds). (650) 808-4603 or (510) 613-2092.

 

http://groups.psychologytoday.com/rms/prof_results.php?city=San-Francisco&spec=14

 

Caregiver Resilience Group: Meets in San Francisco 94102. (415) 801-0882.

 

Free Drop-In Support Group: Meets Fri. in San Francisco 94117. (415) 789-3759.

 

12 Week Grief Recovery Program: Meets Tues. in San Francisco 94131. (415) 691-7807.

 

Love, Loss and Letting Go: A Grief Process Group: Meets in San Francisco 94114. (415) 767-1585.

 

Widows Retreat: Brentwood, CA 94513. (925) 308-5494.

 

Hospice by the Bay Grief Support Groups. (www.hospicebythebay.org/index.php/about/calendar/grief-support-groups)

 

Free Drop-In Support Group – SF: Comfort, emotional support and healing advice after the loss of a loved one. Weekly. No registration required. Call (415) 526-5699.

 

 

Holiday Events

 

Holiday Bazaar: San Francisco Senior Center. 481 O’Farrell St. (415) 771-7950. Holiday Bazaar Preview Sale. Contact the Senior Center in November for dates and details.

 

Holiday Meal: Richmond Senior Center. 6221 Geary Blvd. (415) 752-6444. Call in October for information on: Thanksgiving Meal, Christmas Meal and New Year’s Day Meal. Meals are served 11:45 am. It is recommended that you call ahead. Donations suggested.

 

Holiday Event: Stonestown YMCA – Senior Annex. Hot Lunches: Monday through Friday. Holiday Events Calendar and ongoing events. Contact the Senior Annex. 3150 20th Ave. (415) 242-7135.

 

Nutcracker Ballet: War Memorial Opera House. (www.sfballet.org) 301 Van Ness Ave. (415) 865-2000. No senior or children discount.

 

Christmas Concert: Davies Symphony Hall. www.sfsymphony.org. Grove St./Van Ness Ave. (415) 846-6000. Concerts for the kids, adults, the whole family.

 

 

Anise Matteson is an elder care consultant, retired registered health information technician and writer of reference books for seniors including Coping with the Holidays: Excerpts from Elder Caregivers Newsletter (2007) and forum host for “Caring for an Aging Loved One. “For specific questions and advice, please contact your health care specialist and other professional service providers. If you require legal advice, you should seek the services of an attorney. She can be reached by email at cfaalo@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

 

© Castro Courier 2014 No part of this website or artwork portrayed may be redistributed or republished without the express permission of the Castro Courier. Opinions expressed are strictly those of the writers and do not reflect the opinions of the publisher or staff.

 

Let’s Talk Boomer Legal and Advance Care Planning

 

 

Getting your “powers of attorney” completed — the Advance Health Care Directive and the Durable Powers of Attorney — is probably more important than executing your Will or your Trust. Why? Because, as is discussed below, the Executor of your Will is only authorized to distribute your “stuff” when you are dead; an Executor has no authority to do anything while you are alive; and nothing to say about your health or finances. While a trust can have effect in your lifetime as well as after your death (if you cannot manage your affairs, the trustee can “step up to the plate” to handle only those assets which are in the trust), again, it is limited in its scope. Meanwhile, should you have an accident or stroke, or should you lose your ability to make health and financial decisions for any reason for any period of time, your agent whom you named in your Advance Health Care Directive will have the authority – in writing – to discuss your situation with your doctors, ask for and receive medical reports, relate your concerns to the doctors and hospital personnel and make the kinds of decisions you would want made about your health care, including end of life care, nutrition, hydration and hospice care. And, the agent whom you named in the Durable Power of Attorney for Property and Finances will have authority, again, in writing, to handle those matters for you at your bank, brokerage, with your government benefits, with your property. If you have not prepared these two documents in advance, had them witnessed or notarized (a DPAP must be notarized because it controls property and finances), you could well find yourself in a CONSERVATORSHIP of your PERSON, your ESTATE or both. You do not want to be in any type of conservatorship.

 

POWER OF ATTORNEY: THE IMPORTANCE AND TYPES OF DESIGNEE

 

A Power of Attorney is a document that authorizes someone of your choosing, your “agent” or “attorney in fact” to make financial and property decisions for you should you be unable or incapable of making them. There are several types of powers of attorney: a Durable Power of Attorney means that the power you have authorized will endure after you are incapacitated. You could sign a durable power of attorney now that is immediately effective, meaning that your agent may act tomorrow, even though you are still competent to act.

 

You may want to execute a “springing” Power of Attorney, which means the Person you authorize to act must wait for an event to take place before s/he may act. You may want your power of attorney to come into effect on a specific date, say, your 80th birthday. Most people want a power of attorney to come into effect when your primary doctor has determined that you are no longer able to make financial decisions in your best interest. This determination requires a doctor’s intervention and medical examination.

 

There are “general” Powers of Attorney which can be short range or specific to a particular event. For example, you will be out of the country when the escrow on your house closes and you authorize a trusted person to complete the necessary paperwork for the sale. Or you authorize your accountant to make inquiry into your bank accounts.

 

These must be signed and notarized powers of attorney; they may have a limited time period: “From January 1, 2012 to April 15, 2012, from today to the sale closing”.

 

There is a short (3 page), Uniform Statutory Form Power of Attorney available on line; as well as longer, more complex DPAPs drafted by attorneys. Please be advised that a Durable Power of Attorney is a very powerful legal document and can be very dangerous if misused. You want your agent to have the widest scope of powers available. However, it is just such a broad set of authorities that presents the greatest risks of abuse. Choose your agent(s) wisely. If your DPAP is effective immediately, your agent should have a copy. If not, your primary agent should at least know where to find the document should it become necessary to use it.

 

ADVANCE HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE: HOW TO MAKE IT A LEGAL DOCUMENT AND WHO SHOULD HAVE A COPY

 

Only a few years ago, Advance Care Health Directives were not considered important, if they were even known about. You may or may not recall the Terri Schiavo story which was all over the news for a period of time until she died on March 31, 2005.

 

Basically, Terri had been in what is known as a “persistent vegetative state” for about five years following some medical event. Her husband repeatedly stated that Terri and he had discussed the possibility of either of them being unable to communicate their wishes about healthcare and life saving measures; and that Terri had expressed her wish that she not be kept on life-saving procedures. However, Terri’s parents argued forcefully that she should be kept alive. The bottom line was that TERRI DID NOT HAVE A SIGNED HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE. Everyone got involved, including the President of the country. We cannot say for certain that had Terri had a written advance health care directive, things would have gone more smoothly with fewer participants. However, what became clear was that a signed writing was the minimum necessary for a hospital or a court to acknowledge a person’s end of life wishes.

 

An Advance Health Care Directive is a document which authorizes someone of your choosing, your “agent” or “attorney in fact” to make health care decisions for you should you be unable, incapable, of making them. You may write in your own words or simply initial choices presented on a printed form. The agent named on this form has authorities you give her/him: about where you want to live if you become too ill to live at home; who may visit you in a hospital; about kinds of end-of-life care you may wish or not want; about any kinds of religious or spiritual services; about burial, cremation; and the person named in this document has the authority to claim your body at the hospital.

 

There are short forms and long forms. You can contact the California Medical Association to get an Advance Health Care Kit in several different languages (www.cmanet.org); there is an Aging with Dignity: Five Wishes booklet available which includes an advance health care directive.

 

You’ll want to be sure that your agents agree with your end-of-life decisions and will represent them to your doctors. As with a Durable Power of Attorney, you may give your agent immediate authority to handle your health care even though you are still capable of making decisions. Or, you may choose to have the document effective only after your doctor or doctors, in consultation with your agent, have determined that you lack the capacity to manage your health care. Which kind of document you choose is important; but making that decision is NOT an excuse for not executing a document as soon as possible. As long as you are competent, you may always amend it, replace it. But if you do not have one, chances that you will need a conservatorship of your person are great, too great to wait.

 

PHYSICIAN ORDERS FOR LIFE-SUSTAINING TREATMENT

 

Like the Advance Health Care Directive, but narrower in its scope, a California state POLST as it is known, is a document which sets forth your wishes for end-of-life care: do you want CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation); kinds of comfort care; nutrition.

 

However, this form is signed by your doctor with whom you have discussed your situation; and your doctor has effectively agreed to treat you as you wish. There are endorsed POLST programs and developing POLST programs throughout the states.

 

The California form is a bright pink form which is made to stand out among your papers accompanying you to a hospital. You can find the document on the internet at www.polst.org. This is a newer form; its use is not widespread. For many people, it may be too specific; but you should check it out.

 

LIVING WILL

 

A “living will” is basically a statement about the kinds of end-of-life care that you want your physicians to perform. It speaks directly to the physician, eliminating the need for an agent to act as an intermediary. For many people who do not have anyone they would trust, or want to burden, with making health care decisions, this document makes his or her wishes known to the physician. Even without designating an agent, the AHCD can also direct a physician to provide the kinds of medical care or end-of-life care that the principal wants when he or she is no longer capable of explaining them to anyone. This form effectively skips to the chase: it is about not wanting to be kept on artificial life support. As with the Advance Health Care Directive, it must be completed and executed by the principal while he or she has legal capacity to know what is being signed. It should be given to your medical provider to keep with your medical files.

 

WILL

 

Your “will,” what used to be known as a “Last Will and Testament” basically is a document that has no effect until you die. You may change it during your life, but must execute a codicil and have it witnessed with the same formalities as the original will. If you change the will too often there can be complications at your death regarding the ‘correct’ or ‘last’ distribution plan. At your death, the person you nominate as your Executor will distribute your property according to the Will. However, your will may have to be probated; see below.

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A “LIVING WILL” AND A “WILL”

 

OK, that’s easy; but it’s one of the most misunderstood differences. .A “will” is about property when you die. A ‘living’ will is about your health: keep me alive; pull the plugs. There used to be a separate form in California for a living will. Now, that form is rolled into the Advance Health Care Directive

 

Helene V. Wenzel is a solo practitioner in estate planning and elder law who prepares wills, trusts, durable powers of attorney, advance health care directives, trust administration and probate. Her elder law practice focuses on planning for incapacity, conservatorships, long-term and nursing home care, asset management and Medi-Cal eligibility. She is past president of the Northern California Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (www.NAELA.org), the largest elder law association of attorneys in the country. Helene regularly addresses community meetings, attorneys and other concerned professionals about estate planning and elder law concerns.

 

••••• January 2015 Issue  •••••

 

Coping with the Holidays During Periods of Personal Bereavement

 

 

 

 

Christmastide is the festival season from Christmas Eve until after New Year’s Day.

 

 

Christmas is observed as a legal holiday that commemorates the birth of Christ—a feast on December 25, or as celebrated by some of the Eastern Orthodox faith, on or near January 6. It is observed with religious ceremonies and prayer.

 

The word Christmas comes from the early English phrase Christes Masse, which means Christ’s Mass.

 

Many people write Xmas instead of Christmas. This form of the name originated in the early Christian Church. In Greek, X is the first letter of Christ’s name. It was frequently used as a holy symbol.

 

Christmas is a family occasion—relatives gather to exchange gifts and share their happiness.

 

The custom of exchanging Christmas gifts is a tradition associated with the gifts the Wise Men brought the Christ Child. Gifts are homemade or bought and wrapped with bright paper and ribbons.

 

Santa, a symbol of gift giving, creates and atmosphere of cheerfulness.

 

Family dinner consists of: meat, potatoes, vegetables, dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, nuts and fruits. Dessert: fruit cake, plum pudding, pumpkin or mince pie. Drinks: eggnog.

 

Usually the word “White Christmas” is associated with snow at Christmastime. It is also a term associated with churches and social groups celebrated as a way of sharing. Several days before Christmas, members of the group wrap canned goods, turkeys, and other foods in white paper. They distributed these gifts to needy persons in the community. This tradition continues today with receptacles throughout the city for donating food items or purchasing a $10 bag of groceries for supermarkets to donate to a charity. (The World Book Encyclopedia)

 

Holiday Coping Strategies

 

This article is intended to provide solace for families coping with an anticipated loss or who have lost a family member this year.

 

To all my readers, may you and your loved ones enjoy a Merry Christmas and a healthy New Year.

 

Evaluate Your Coping Plans

 

♥ Do your plans isolate you?

 

♥ Do your plans reflect what a particular holiday means for you?

 

♥ The most difficult part of the holiday season?

 

♥ The most difficult people to be with?

 

♥ Grief triggers?

 

♥ Traditions you want to include?

 

♥ Traditions you do not want to include?

 

♥ People you would like to be with you?

 

♥ People you do not want to spend the holidays with?

 

♥ Things that might help you when you are feeling intense grief?

 

 

Assert Yourself

 

Dr. Louis E. LaGrand offers the following advice in his book Healing Grief, Finding Peace:

 

♥ Your needs come first. Tell family and friends specifically what you can and cannot do.

 

♥ You may want to eat out, have someone else hold it this year, or have others assume more responsibility.

 

♥ You don’t have to follow the exact schedule or routines of the past. Consider starting a new tradition.

 

♥ There is nothing wrong with reducing the amount of time you spend at events or in preparation for the day. Tell all concerned what your level of participation will be.

 

♥ Find a way to symbolically honor your deceased loved one. Make it a habit to acknowledge the memory of your loved one at major family events. It’s okay if tears flow.

 

♥ Tell yourself and accept the fact that the holidays will be different. Identify what emotions you are feeling and express them to your grief companion.

 

♥ Diligently manage your anticipation. Keep things simple and focus on the values, beliefs, joy, and wisdom of the deceased. Remember that laughter and a smile are still important parts of life.

 

 

Providing Emotional Support for Kids During the Holidays

 

1. Be aware of the behavior of adults, particularly parents on a grieving child. Parents must let the child know that adult tears are not a rejection of the child.

 

2. Don’t avoid long-standing family tradition. Traditions are often comfortable for the children (e.g. decorating the tree, lighting the candles, the big family dinner). Focus on available support from family and close friends.

 

3. Create a specific time during the holiday season to talk as a family about favorite memories of the person who dies.

 

4. Provide children with special amounts of attention, praise and emotional support.

 

5. Take an active role in helping the child cope.

 

6. Pay attention to cues and talk openly about how natural it is to be thinking of your loved one.

 

7. Recognize that the child may have questions about the death…Be patient and honest in your answers.

 

8. Provide reassurance through actions as well as words.

 

9. Recognize that children need to talk, not just to be talked to.

 

©Suggestions provided by: Hospice by the Bay, from: Helping Children Cope With Grief, by Dr. Alan Wolfelt—printed with permission of Hospice by the Bay for inclusion in Elder Caregivers NEWSLETTER – October 2003, p. 8.

 

 

Tips for Adults on Providing Emotional Support for Adolescents

 

They should be listened to and allowed to ventilate their feelings, whether they be guilt, anger or plain sadness. (Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, MD, On Death and Dying, p. 185.)

 

Writing a Sympathy Note

 

How to write a letter to enclose with a holiday card to someone who has experienced the death of a loved one?

 

Barbara Kate Repa, Senior Editor at Caring.com has these suggestions:

 

♥ A handwritten note.

 

♥ Avoid explanations or excuses for tardiness.

 

♥ The note can be brief or long. The intent is to convey that you are thinking of him or her and sending support.

 

♥ Concentrate on extending sympathy rather than personal updates. Do not inject recounting your own loss.

 

♥ If you do not know what to say, phrases often used are:

 

With deepest sympathy,

 

Our heartfelt condolences,

 

My heart goes out to you and your family.

 

I’m so sorry for your loss.

 

_______ will be sorely missed.

 

Your family is in my thoughts and prayers.

 

♥ Use the deceased’s name.

 

♥ Talk about the deceased. Include specific comments about the person who died—an anecdote that captured the person’s personality, comment on how the person inspired or taught you or made you happy.

 

♥ Skip the unpleasantries (drudging up past disagreements, sums of money owed, comparison to other relatives’ death, apologies or explanations for having been out of touch or less-than-flattering words about the deceased).

 

♥ Avoid platitudes—clichés about death.

 

♥ Write from your heart.

 

♥ Include your return address and full name.

 

(www.caring.com/articles/sympathy--note)

 

 

Chef’s Corner

 

Everyone is invited to share your favorite holiday recipes for appetizers, soups, salads, meat, potatoes, dressing, gravy, desserts (cakes, pudding, pies), beverages and their history for easy-to-prepare meals for seniors and caregivers at Caring for an Aging Loved One Forum at http://forums. delphiforums.com/elder_care. Nutrition. Click on Holiday Recipes.

 

 

Support Groups

 

Support groups reduce the sense of isolation, become networks for cultivating new friends who understand what you are going through, provide a place where you can really tell it like it is. (Dr. Louis LaGrand. Healing Grief, Finding Peace, p. 169.)

 

Association for Death Education and Counseling. www.adec.org. Networking Groups: Online year-round on ADEC’s group page on Linked-In. Free for members to join and participate in discussions, share links and resources, ask questions and meet fellow ADEC members. Participation in Networking Groups is limited to ADEC members. To join, send an email to the Networking Group Chair. Bereavement Support Groups: Grief and Families. Grief at Work. Grief Camp. Hospital-Based Bereavement Programs.

 

Pathways. www.pathwayshealth.org/grief-support/support-groups.html. From September through June, Pathways provides separate support groups for loss of a parent, a spouse or a child. Groups examine common grief issues such as coping skills, loneliness, anger, “normal” grief and lifestyle changes. Afternoons (San Francisco – Weds). (650) 808-4603 or (510) 613-2092.

 

http://groups.psychologytoday.com/rms/prof_results.php?city=San-Francisco&spec=14

 

Caregiver Resilience Group: Meets in San Francisco 94102. (415) 801-0882.

 

Free Drop-In Support Group: Meets Fri. in San Francisco 94117. (415) 789-3759.

 

12 Week Grief Recovery Program: Meets Tues. in San Francisco 94131. (415) 691-7807.

 

Love, Loss and Letting Go: A Grief Process Group: Meets in San Francisco 94114. (415) 767-1585.

 

Widows Retreat: Brentwood, CA 94513. (925) 308-5494.

 

Hospice by the Bay Grief Support Groups. (www.hospicebythebay.org/index.php/about/calendar/grief-support-groups)

 

Free Drop-In Support Group – SF: Comfort, emotional support and healing advice after the loss of a loved one. Weekly. No registration required. Call (415) 526-5699.

 

 

Holiday Events

 

Holiday Bazaar: San Francisco Senior Center. 481 O’Farrell St. (415) 771-7950. Holiday Bazaar Preview Sale. Contact the Senior Center in November for dates and details.

 

Holiday Meal: Richmond Senior Center. 6221 Geary Blvd. (415) 752-6444. Call in October for information on: Thanksgiving Meal, Christmas Meal and New Year’s Day Meal. Meals are served 11:45 am. It is recommended that you call ahead. Donations suggested.

 

Holiday Event: Stonestown YMCA – Senior Annex. Hot Lunches: Monday through Friday. Holiday Events Calendar and ongoing events. Contact the Senior Annex. 3150 20th Ave. (415) 242-7135.

 

Nutcracker Ballet: War Memorial Opera House. (www.sfballet.org) 301 Van Ness Ave. (415) 865-2000. No senior or children discount.

 

Christmas Concert: Davies Symphony Hall. www.sfsymphony.org. Grove St./Van Ness Ave. (415) 846-6000. Concerts for the kids, adults, the whole family.

 

 

Anise Matteson is an elder care consultant, retired registered health information technician and writer of reference books for seniors including Coping with the Holidays: Excerpts from Elder Caregivers Newsletter (2007) and forum host for “Caring for an Aging Loved One. “For specific questions and advice, please contact your health care specialist and other professional service providers. If you require legal advice, you should seek the services of an attorney. She can be reached by email at cfaalo@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

 

© Castro Courier 2014