Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hospice Planning

In a prior blog post, (Life Care Planning – Bridging the Gap), I told part of the story of the journey of Mom’s stroke and ultimate death. In this post, I tell the rest of the story. Even though I had practiced Elder Law for 20 years and had advised many people about the legal process, when my own Mom had a stroke on January 1, 2005, I felt helpless. When it’s your parent or your spouse, it’s different. You need help.

After her stroke, Mom was in a hospital for several weeks, then was discharged to a skilled care nursing home. Even though the nursing home that she was in provided good care, she was not getting any better. As a matter of fact, every few months she was taken back to the hospital for a week or so to kill off new infections that had developed.

At the end of her last hospital stay, a nurse pulled me aside and asked me whether I had heard about hospice. I said that I had and was reluctant to seriously even think about it – I felt that by placing her in the care of hospice, I was giving up on her. Only later after she had received hospice care for a while did I find out how wrong I had been!

Hospice not only provided excellent care for my Mom during her last few months on earth, but they helped me through it as well. Watching a loved one die is not easy. Hospice can help. If you or a loved one needs hospice care, give them a call. They may be able to help more that you know.

But the rest of the story is that you can help too. By having adequate health care documents (discussed in next blog post) and other estate planning documents, you can take the legal and emotional load off your family. It is difficult and sometimes impossible to make health care decisions for a person who has not planned adequately. Adequate estate planning may also preserve assets for the benefit of a surviving spouse or children. The key is to do it before you need it.

Many time people have told me that “My kids know what I want.” That may be true – but unfortunately, unless you have proper legal documents, spoken words are not good enough. If you haven’t done proper planning, give us a call before it’s too late. But if you have a spouse, child or other loved one who has not planned and is receiving hospice care now, call us anyway. We can often make a substantial difference even when time is not on your side.

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