Women over 60 are enjoying life to the full. So, it’s no surprise that end of life planning is the last thing on our minds. When we do think about death, our concerns tend to be for the family and friends that we would leave behind.
So, there’s the dilemma. We don’t want to think about our mortality. But, we still want to make sure that our loved ones would be taken care of, should the unexpected happen.
Fortunately, end of life planning doesn’t need to be depressing. There are practical steps that we can take to give ourselves peace of mind.
Ideally, this should be a two-way conversation. In a perfect world, we would sit down with our children and have a rational discussion. Unfortunately, for most people, especially the young, death is not an easy topic.
When I worked with Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross in the 1980s, death was even more of a taboo subject. Her books, including “On Death and Dying” helped to make it acceptable to talk about this important topic. Now, three decades later, the situation is quite different. It is a real step forward that there are so many innovative groups offering a safe place to have these conversations.
I hope that this article helps in its own way to further the conversation about end of life planning. I also hope to introduce you to some of the resources that can help you to plan for what will happen after you pass away.
Death doesn’t have to be scary. If you come from a family that avoids “unpleasant” topics, perhaps it would help to introduce them to one of the following two organizations. Both groups provide blueprints for how to talk about death with friends and loved ones.
Death over Dinner: This website was founded by a group of medical professionals and wellness experts, who were concerned about the disconnect in the American health care system between how Americans say they would prefer to die (at home) and how they actually are more likely to die (in hospitals or care facilities). Their website provides interactive tools and helps people to host “Death Dinners.” These events facilitate conversations with the intention of allowing people to face death on their own terms.
Death Café: This website provides resources to help people talk about death with the people they love most. It facilitates conversations about how you want to die, what you want to have with you on your final journey and what is most important to you in life. The site promises “an uplifting interactive adventure that transforms this seemingly difficult conversation into one of deep engagement, insight and empowerment.” Check out the Death Café website for more details, or to find a Death Café location near you.
Most women in the Sixty and Me Community say that they would like their funeral to be a simple celebration of their lives. Several said that they would like their family and friends to remember the good times and participate in activities that give them a positive sense of closure. After all, a funeral is not for the person who has died. If you want to make your funeral wishes clear, here are a few things your loved-ones might want to know.
If you’d like to be an organ donor, please make your wishes known in advance. This can be one of the most emotional decisions for family members to make and you can save them a lot of stress by communicating your choice in writing.
Cremation has become much more popular in recent years. There are also “green funeral” solutions like Bios Urn, where your ashes can be used to plant a tree. Check out this site for more information on “natural burials” or read this article in the Guardian for more ideas on eco-friendly funerals.
If you are religious, would you like your funeral to be held at a church, temple or other house of worship? Or would you prefer a less formal memorial service? Would you like your loved ones to gather at your house, at a favorite restaurant, in a park or another place with special meaning to you?
Do you have a favorite song or poem or passage from a book that you would love your family to hear as they share in your memory?
Who are the loved ones that you would be most honored to see gathered to celebrate your life after you’re gone? Perhaps there are even a few people you do not want to attend.
If you haven’t already, organize an appointment with an estate planning attorney to get your affairs in order. Think about making a living will, including medical directives in case you become incapacitated by illness or injury. If you are married, talk with your spouse and make sure that you are listed as beneficiaries of each other’s assets (pensions, life insurance policies, etc.) If you have divorced and/or re-married, double-check your beneficiary designations and make sure your assets will go to the right people.
It might sound silly, but, deciding how to handle your “digital assets” is more important than you might think. After all, who gets access to your e-mail address after you die? Would you like your family to have access to all of your messages? Or, would you prefer that they stay private? If you want your family to have access to your online accounts, consider making a big binder, with a list of all of your usernames and passwords.
It’s much easier to specify in advance who should have access, rather than leaving your loved-ones to struggle with the powers that be at Google, Yahoo, Microsoft or Facebook. There is an excellent infographic here that explains the current policies of the major online companies when it comes to your digital presence.
End of life planning is a complex and multi-faceted topic. If you’d like to start today to get some practical help with end of life planning, check out Everplans. Ironically, planning for a time when you will be gone frees you up to make the most of what is left of your amazing life.
What do you think? Have you conducted any of these important end of life planning conversations with your loved ones? Please join the conversation