Facing the BIG Picture

We frequently urge you here on our blog to create the documents necessary to protect yourself in case of emergency, and to ensure that your family and loved ones know your wishes for health care if you are ever unable to make those decisions yourself. But a recent article on MSNBC reminds us that creating the documents isn’t always enough.

The article by Susan Brink details the final days of Bunny Olenick, 87-year-old mother and grandmother, whose massive stroke in December of 2008 threw her family into a state of confusion… in spite of the fact that she had done all the right things.

“Olenick had done all she could to give her family instructions about her death. She had spoken to her sons about her wishes, filled out an advance directive, a living will, and had named her sons as health care proxies — all legally accepted documents and procedures designed to insure that a person’s end-of-life wishes are spelled out and honored. Yet even they weren’t prepared for the many difficult questions they faced.”

The questions they faced were a surprising mixture of technical and metaphysical: Did “life-support” include temporary nasogastric tubes for nutrition?—How exactly does one define “Quality of Life?”—Was a short-term oxygen mask okay, even though a respirator was against her wishes?—And Bunny’s own heart-breaking question upon waking up in a hospital bed, “Why am I still here?”

Bunny’s story illustrates for all of us the importance not only of creating the appropriate legal documents, but also creating the time and space to talk to our loved ones about these difficult situations. Our firm can help you to create an estate plan that will protect your loved ones and guide your agents in your wishes… but the documents are only a small part of the process. Talk to your family about the process of creating your estate plan: the how and why of your important decisions. Knowing why you made the choices you did will help your family accept your decisions and follow your wishes when the difficult metaphysical questions come up.