Many of us avoid talking about end-of-life. Death is a tough subject that’s easier to avoid than face openly. But putting off difficult conversations about what you want to happen (or not) at end-of-life can be worse. You may leave a loved one in a position to make a life-or-death decision without knowing your wishes.
You may leave one person with the task of caring for you at end-of-life without sharing why with all your loved ones, leading to potential strain in relationships. Avoid burdening your loved ones by giving them the gift of difficult conversations.
You may still be reluctant—if so, you are not alone. According to a 2013 survey by The Conversation Project, 90% surveyed said talking to their loved ones about end-of-life care was important, while only 30% had actually done so.1 Another 60% said making sure their family is not burdened by tough end-of-life decisions is extremely important, yet almost as many had not communicated their wishes.2
My husband Jaime cracked open the door and peered through as he yelled, “How’s it going?” I had the task of sorting through our garage storage in preparation for our big move. We were ready to take a big step—sell our home to move into an environment that better supported our new goals and life stage. Jaime, like most of us, knew if he sorted the garage contents, he would want to hold onto everything. As such, he asked me to not tell him what I kept or discarded.
A week after I finished decluttering, he asked me where the “beach sign” was. The beach sign, a sentimental keepsake with faded and worn blue paint and a silhouette of a finger pointing to the beach, graced our beloved vacation home for the many years we spent there with our daughter. And it was nowhere to be found. I told him it was gone, and he was visibly shaken. It was the only item he missed (and remembered) from what I cleared out.
To help ease his disappointment, I surprised him a few days later with a small memory book of our family’s beach memories, which included a photo of the beach sign. I could tell my gesture was well received as he flipped through the book with a giant smile on his face.
A common client question we receive is “What should I do with all my photographs and family movies? I don’t want to throw them away.” If you are over 50, chances are you have boxes of cherished photos, slides and home movies. Organizing these memories can be a rewarding experience as you recall key moments in your life. Once everything is sorted, you can easily access, share and enjoy your memories while keeping them protected from deterioration.
Despite the benefits, many people procrastinate in organizing photos and home movies because it seems daunting. Don’t worry; there are ways to make this type of project easy!
For example, you can watch a movie while you sort, or invite someone over who will appreciate your stories and memories to help you. You may also consider breaking the work into smaller, more manageable segments and celebrating your progress as you complete each one.
Last December, I bought my first home, a little white Cape Cod cottage nestled snuggly in a small town at the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge. Nancy*, the widowed second owner of the home, had lived there since 1957. At 97 years old, she decided it was the right time to sell her home and move into an assisted living facility just down the road. The house had become too much for Nancy to handle and she needed help with activities like preparing meals, cleaning, and bathing.
Nancy was known for being active in the neighborhood: talking to neighbors, walking to stores, and staying active in her community. She attended a local church and had many friends. Her yard was always well kept and she navigated the cement stairs into the home’s front and back entrances using handrails attached to the old tongue and groove walls. She had a walk-in shower installed, reducing her risk of falling by removing the threshold. Her little southern-facing home was always clean, bright, and uncluttered. Nancy was known for being independent, self-sufficient, and a bit of a firecracker.
As I soon discovered, she was loved by her neighbors and when she left the little white house on the corner, the community felt a deep loss.
Staring out his office window, Bob was caught in a daze as he reflected over the last 45 years spent building a fulfilling career. The faces of all the people he had met and built relationships with over the years flashed through his mind. Today was circled in red on his calendar—the day he planned to retire. Everyone around Bob was excited for his retirement but, Bob wasn’t. While he was looking forward to traveling more with his wife, deep down something didn’t feel right.
The retirement dream was built on the idea of living a life of leisure—the end of working life. Retirement tended to be shorter in duration for past generations, too. Today, many adults reject this vision of leisure and question whether 20 or more years of retirement or not working is desirable or even practical. Instead, they look forward to years of continued good health and an active life of purpose and meaning—perhaps even an encore career.1
Starting an encore career is a growing trend for many people in the boomer generation. Boomers are redefining what retirement means today and for future generations. Instead of ending a working life boomers are redefining their working life by shifting to work that is more meaningful. For Bob, an encore career could be just what he needs to ease the fear of transitioning into retirement.
Fisher Life Planning is designed to help aging adults navigate life’s most complex decisions. Our Life Planning Professionals help you consider and approach some of life’s unexpected challenges around housing strategies, holistic wellbeing, legacy planning, and pursuing purpose with confidence, now and into the future. Better living through education, empowerment and support from professionals who care—that’s Fisher Life Planning.