Tuesday, May 5, 2020

A File for Life

One of my daughters sent me an announcement of a program in her community where first responders assist residents in completing a health form.  The EMS, police and firefighters know where to look in the home for medical and health related information—in the refrigerator.  The File for Life is a place to list prescription medications, doctors’ names, allergies and names of people to be notified in the event of a medical emergency.  The form is put in a plastic sleeve and the recipient is instructed to place it in the refrigerator. 

I’ve mentioned this idea in the past.  The titles of the forms can change; the intent doesn’t.  First responders need to know basic health status in order to convey necessary information to the hospital/ physician.  Since most people have a refrigerator, it makes sense to store this vital information there.
Back in 2015, a pharmacist in a suburb of Pittsburgh created a Vial for Life.  He came up with a pill bottle that would store the forms with the necessary information.  Working with the EMS department in his community, he distributed these containers and instructed people to keep them in the fridge. 

Even if you don’t have an “official” container or form, jot down your meds, your allergies, the names of your doctors and put the paper in a plastic bag and keep it in the refrigerator.  Tell your friends and family to create their own storage system for the fridge.  Or call your local emergency services department and learn what they need to better help you in a critical time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

There is Always Tomorrow

Since we have been at home, my life has been turned upside down.  I am used to getting up and out of the house daily for exercise, having a schedule for chores, computer, meal prep, phone conversations, etc.  Now, my attitude is, “I can do that tomorrow”. 

And I am sure I am not alone.  Sometimes I forget what day it is!  They blend together.  And I anticipate at least several more weeks of this.  Not everyone can learn a new language or create art or do online classes.  Sometimes it is OK to do nothing as long as there is awareness when the nothing becomes depression. 

There are so many resources available that having too much of a choice becomes paralyzing.  Seriously, how many choices do we need for cereal?  And what we do is become overwhelmed and we select the same kind as we have always used.  Change is hard. 

And there are many resources coming from new sources for ways to organize our lives.  My physician e- mailed information about planning for emergencies. Not only was there information about health issues, there were tips for pet care  and bill paying.   Financial institutions and grocery stores are doing the same.  The government, through several departments, publish information on what we should do.  Much of the information is the same.  Some of it is conflicting. 

So, what to do?  As one who loves learning, I tend to look at a variety of things and take what I consider valuable and doable from each source.  Planning is the most important lesson we can learn from this pandemic.  I liken it to insurance.  While we hope we never have to make a claim, it’s important and most often mandatory, that we have automobile and home insurance.  And we know that someone will have to carry out our plans so make them. 

Schedule an hour to get your papers in order, to make the appointment with an attorney to write a will, to download forms from the internet and begin thinking about what you want for end of life issues, and to think about funeral/cremation.  Be a part of the solution; don’t be part of the problem for your family or loved ones who will have to deal with financial and health issues if you are incapacitated or deceased. 

As always, please comment.

Be safe

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

New Year Assignments

Winter is a time in look inward.  The days are shorter, the weather (at least in the east) is cold, and being inside is more inviting.  So, what to do…. One good suggestion I came across is to get a binder and include: A financial asset list, a non-financial asset list (personal items that may be of value), computer passwords, credit card numbers, emergency contacts, estate planning documents and the location of your financial adviser and lawyer, funeral arrangements, health information (and this is super important if you take medication and have chronic conditions), insurance policies, and tax statements (or a note indicating the location of the previous year’s returns) and the name and phone number of the accountant. 

This may also be a time to take another look at your will, healthcare power of attorney and financial power of attorney.  Do you want to change beneficiaries?  Do you have new grandchildren or nephews and nieces?  Did you have a death in the family last year and what did you learn from that experience relative to your own financial situation? 

As you ponder the future, take a look back at the last year or even the last decade and marvel at your accomplishments.  Writing these things down with pen and paper instead of a computer can enhance the experience of patting yourself on the back.  The exercise of writing is very positive.  We all need pats on the back and sometimes we are the only one who will do it for ourselves. 

Cheers to your past accomplishments and future endeavors.  May you have smooth sailing ahead.  Happy 2020.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Death Rituals in Other Countries

If you are interested in thanatology (the study of death), I recommend the 2017 book, From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty.  It’s a fascinating account of death practices in parts of the US and in other countries.  I admit I was both fascinated and appalled by some of the rituals and at the same time, awed by the myriad ways people’s faith and customs direct their grief. 

There is no “best” way to die or to mourn; there is only the “best” way in the culture in which one lives.

Let me know if you read the book.  And if you are in Pittsburgh on December 12, 2019 please come to the Death Café at the Upper St. Clair Library at 7 PM.  Look in the archives for posts about Death Cafés or visit deathcafe.com.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Ashes, Now What

A story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reaffirms the importance of talking to one’s family about end of life decisions.  I never gave this much thought until now.  When a person requests cremation, I assumed the family or designated person would either take the cremains in a container, make arrangements to bury the container, or spread the ashes in a designated place.  Nationally, in 2018, 15,000 containers were not picked up; that’s 1% of all cremations.  While the percentage is not high, funeral homes have boxes going way back…even for 40 years.  Some funeral homes may decide to bury the containers in a single grave after a specified period of time.

One solution may be to request payment from the family for burying the cremains and if the family claims the container, the family will be reimbursed.  Asking for a fee, according to one funeral home, has led to a decrease in abandoned cremains. 

There are no easy answers.  And family members who were deemed responsible for handling end of life wishes may themselves take ill or die before they can carry out their responsibilities.   So, it is important for us, as responsible citizens, to make our wishes known to our family, including what we want done with our ashes.

Thoughts?   Please share and start a conversation in your own community.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

What a Great Idea!

From The Washington Post, November 14, 2019:  A family is downsizing after living in their home for 45 years.  They decided to throw a party and encourage their guests to take an item or ten from their home.  Is this the beginning of a downsizing party phenomena? 

From the pictures in the article, it looked like the couple had many keepsakes, souvenirs from years of travel, and political memorabilia.  Included in the giveaway were plant cuttings and books.  It also appeared they had lots of friends who had children and grandchildren who needed things. 

The author likened the party to the Swedish practice of “death cleaning” which I have written about.

Reminds me of the clothing swap that was the rage years ago where a group of women would bring clothes they no longer wanted to a designated location and swap with their friends.   A clothing party! Nowadays, there are websites where you can sell your clothes or buy used clothes. 

Since I am in smaller quarters, I have to carefully decide if I have space when I am considering a purchase- clothing, shoes, canned goods, health and beauty items, and even refrigerated items. 
Think about this when making a purchase.  Is it a need or a want?  No easy answers.

Let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

No Regrets

A story on nextavenue.org/talk-about-death, discusses Katie Couric’s regrets.She wanted to be positive as her first husband was dying of colon cancer.  She said she never discussed with him the idea that he might die. 

She is now writing her memoir and met with the doctors who took care of Jay Monahan to “revisit” those days. 

I was surprised by her admission.  I thought Katie Couric “has it all together”.  She’s smart, articulate, and has all the resources at her fingertips.  I was wrong.  Very wrong.   She was as vulnerable as any of us and when we are in a crisis mode, we don’t think straight.  That’s why it is so important to make plans ahead; to talk with family about the “D” word. 

The story goes on to say that the $16 billion US funeral industry is being shaken up by the new thoughts of death rituals and burials.  I have not watched the HBO documentary Alternate Endings: Six New Ways to Die in America, released August 14, 2019.  However, I have written about many of the show’s topics: green burials and urns among others.  What I have not discussed and what is a new idea to me is the “living wake” which “force people to say things to each other while still alive.”    I’d rather have a birthday or holiday party than a living wake!  The key, as I see it, is to talk to your family about your death and how you want it to be handled. 

The D word doesn’t take away hope or research; it merely makes it less frightening.  And while I’m on the subject of talking about death, I will be hosting another Death Café in Pittsburgh in December.  There is even a Facebook group for Death Café Pittsburgh!  Let me know if you are interested in attending and I'll send you info as it becomes available.

Until next time…