Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Estate Planning Includes Future Living Plans As Well

By: Susan M. Graham, Certified Elder Law Attorney, Senior Edge Legal, Boise, Idaho

There is a new book, Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande.  The author is a physician concerned about improving lives as people age.

As we get older we fall apart.  This is normal.  “Our functional lung capacity decreases, our bowels slow down.  Our glands stop functioning.  Even our brains shrink. ... The earliest portions to shrink are generally the frontal lobes, which govern judgment and planning, and the hippocampus, where memory is organized.  … By age eighty-five, working memory and judgment are sufficiently impaired that 40 percent of us have textbook dementia.”[1] 

As people age and wind down they face boredom, loneliness and helplessness.  The alternative is to create a world that offers spontaneity, companionship and a chance to have a reason to live, feeling meaningful and worthwhile.   Life is finite.  Why not create a plan that allows for each individual to continue to shape their lives according to their own priorities.  What can be done to make their lives better? 

How to get started?  Have a conversation with family and friends about your last phase of life choices.  If time becomes short, what is most important to you, what are your fears about what lies ahead, what kinds of tradeoffs are you willing to make, how do you want to spend your time, who do you want to make decisions if you can’t?[2] 

How comforting it is to know you have made a plan for the inevitable, rather than slide into the future with no plan and no guidance for those who want to help.  I encourage you to have that conversation.


[1] Being Mortal, Atul Gawande, page 31

[2] Being Mortal, Atul Gawande, page 182

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