Hospice, Funerals, Cremation and Saying Goodbye

My Godmother, Dad, Uncle George (poet) us kid in Italy 1960

My Godmother, Dad, Uncle George (poet) us kid in Italy 1960

My mother was diagnosed with Dementia in May 2006 while my step-father was dying of lung cancer.  Hospice was our saving grace.  I had no idea how wonderful their support and advise would be during Dad’s last few months of death.  He died on my birthday, October 24, 2006.

My mother lived at Sunrise Assisted Living and enjoyed her life very much.  In fact, I just received a copy of the last letter her friend, Norio, of Japan received from her.  Here is a quote from her note, “I don’t have much to say since I don’t do anything except play cards anymore.  I hope you are enjoying every day of life.  I sure am.”

On December 8th, 2009, Hospice was called in to help my mother since her health had deteriated so bad. I knew the routine and went through mourning on my way home from her place that day.  Between Hospice and Sunrise her last month was very pleasant and I enjoyed every moment with her.  She passed away peacefully on Thursday, January 14th.  I had a traditional funeral with a cremation immediately following the service.  I was told that 50% of families are now choosing cremation.

Since my mom’s name is Rose, I am planting a gorgeous Rose Garden with her ashes this spring right in the middle of our circular brick paver drive. There is a huge stone there already, so I will have it inscribed with her name.

After the service, my loved ones and I had the pleasure of going through the dozens of photo albums, scrapbooks, and letters she and my father exchanged when he first went into the army.  I also came across a stack of poems written by my godmother’s husband, George Richardson, a distinquished poet and one of her best friends since high school.  I would like to share it with you now…I promise you will read it twice and it will bring tears to your eyes…

My dear I lay awake last nightTill you were by my side –
The lights were out, the dog was gone
My God I almost cried
I heard your voice as you came in
The first time late for bed –
I thought at first it may bave been
Just something I had said
Twas then I made my mind up dear
I’d be a better mate –
And rid myself of all the doubt
The years of jealous hate
And as you stood beside my love
The scent, it filled the room –
So like the smell that meant so much
When we first bride and groom
The song you picked to play that night
My eyes I kept them shut –
How wrong I’d been through all these years
Within my stubborn rut
I tried to raise my hand to you
With ring that we had wed-
But that’s when you apologized
For all that you had said
I guess that’s when I first felt good
Our friends were all around –
I knew I couldn’t reach you now
And Where that I was bound
The kiss you placed upon my lips
AS though it dealt by fate –
Within my coffin I did lay
Your kiss was two days late

~George Richardson

About the author:  Katana helps women ages 43-60 create lives of abundance, joy and financial freedom while following their passions.  She is a Certified Financial Planner and Caregiving Expert.  You can contact her at katana@katanaabbott.com

Hospice offers a helping hand: Saying Goodbye to Mom

Mom's art show at Sunrise Assisted Living

Mom's art show at Sunrise Assisted Living

My mother has been in Hospice since the first of December.  She suffers from Dementia which is a brain disease.  I just got off the phone with a relative, and he couldn’t understand why Dementia is causing her decline since is seems like a simple brain or memory loss issue.  It’s not though.  Since she was diagnosed, she has slowly been declining in all areas of her life.

I remember taking her to Fitness 19 to work with a trainer last year, and she told me that mom’s muscles were no longer firing…and she just could not seem to get the rhythm of the treadmill together.

Last summer, she was still taking long walks with me and working in the garden and even playing pool with my husband when she began to experience a serious decline.  It may have been the change in her medications after her last visit to the neurologist…I have racked my brain over this.  It doesn’t matter now though, because I and everyone else did our best. 

In most cases, caregivers are giving 100% and it’s just part of the process and there is nothing we can do about it when the decline begins.  My mom went into the hospital in August, came home was back in a month later, came home, and them moved to the dementia section of Sunrise Assisted Living.

If there is anything I can recommend to someone reading this post, it is to go to the higher level of care earlier in the game. My mother stayed in assisted living for 30 days longer than she should have and had several falls.  Once she moved to the higher level of care, she was so well cared for, that she thrived at first.  But in the end, there was nothing anyone could do.  No heroics could save her.  She was on her path to transition to the other side, and I could not stop it.

Maybe she just wants to go visit everyone.  All her loved ones have already left this world.  Tonight, as I sat next to her side, she was unconscious for the first time.  I told her I loved her, I said The Lord’s Prayer for her and I told her it was okay to look for her loved ones.

I hope it’s wonderful on the other side.  I hope she is happy when she gets there.

Hospice has made this process so much easier. If you are not familiar with Hospice, don’t be afraid when the doctor recommends it.  They are the most caring and loving people.  They have mad this entire experience so peaceful for her and for us.  Feel free to share you experiences with me.  I would love to hear from you.

Meeting with Hospice

On Monday this week, Seasons Hospice came to my home to complete the paperwork to have my mom entered into their Hospice program.  Although I used Hospice for my step father in 2006, I received a new insight from this meeting.

These are the most wonderful and kind folks and they offer such an amazing service.  I remember when the doctor recommended Hospice for my step father when he was diagnosed with lung cancer at 86, I actually got mad thinking “I wasn’t going to let him die”.  So I held off contacting them until it was really ‘urgent’ that we get some help.

Had I known how much support, education and services they offer, I would have been grateful to call them for my step father and then received support and guidance for the last full year of his life.

My mom is now in the last stages of her disease (Dementia) and is no longer walking, transferring or able to feed herself.  She is on oxygen and they have just started morphine for pain.  She is becoming very “stiff” it seems and it’s hard for her to move anymore.

Yesterday, my daughters and I spent time together with her going through one of her photo albums that documented her pictures during her school years, plus all her class reunions.  She has created over 40 photo albums and has documented every event during her life.  This is a wonderful gift she is leaving all of us.

I am so glad that we took care of all her planning years ago by creating wills, trusts, power of attorney and long term care insurance for her and dad back when there were lots of options.  This has allowed me to focus on mom and dad’s quality of life and quality of care these last couple of years.

Feel free to download the free Caregiver’s Manual that I created to help you prepare for caring for your loved ones.  I have used this process for years working with hundreds of clients and thank goodness I followed this process with my folks to.  It’s been a blessing.  I am off to help mom with her dinner.  Take care.P7140066  If you have questions about caregiving, financial planning or estate planning, please feel free to contact me at katana@katanaabbott.com

Caregivers and When to Bring in Hospice?

Thanksgiving with mom

Thanksgiving with mom

What do you do when the doctor recommends calling Hospice for your loved one?  After visiting my mom on Thanksgiving and watching her finish her entire dinner, it was shocking to visit her just a week later to find her on oxygen.  My daughters were in tears as we played a couple hands of rummy with her while I held her cards and played for her.  Just weeks ago, she had been able to play independently…plus she actually beat me at a few hands.  How does this happen so quickly?  I called her doctor, and he recommended that we contact Hospice for a consultation.

I am very familiar with Hospice.  My step-father was diagnosed with lung cancer at 86 in October 2005.  We managed to keep dad healthy and enjoying life (beating all odd, the doctor said) and finally called in Hospice in June.  Hospice was our saving grace until he died on October 24, 2006 on my birthday.  I love Hospice.  I’ll share that story with you one day…now back to mom.

Yesterday, I surprised mom on her birthday.  She is just 76 and suffering from dementia and a series of unexpected falls that have caused this sudden change in health.  She was very excited to see me with her gift and cards in hand.  She was just finishing up with her last therapy session that was related to her hospital stay and subsequent rehab stay at Fox Run.  It gets complicated, doesn’t it?

I have been crying on and off every day and feeling this pit inside my stomach since I realized that my mom really is declining.  I have been asking myself did we do all that we could have, did I choose the right doctors, what chould I have done differently?  It’s funny how we do this to ourselves.  I am sure I am not alone with these types of feelings, right?

When I look into my mom’s eyes now she seems to be telling me all is fine and she is ready to go and be with Dale (my step father), and her mom, dad, bothers, and Aunt Madge.  She smiles all the time and is just happy to be with me and grateful for the moments of time we have together right now.

I am calling Hospice tomorrow as her doctor has recommended.  It seems so final, but I know it’s the right thing to do.  What are your feelings about Hospice?  Thank you for your support right now…and I send my love to all of those who are going through this same process right now.  Feel free to share your thoughts…

Caregiving: Words of Wisdom

Meredith BromfieldI am joining Katana and the Designated Daughter team of caregiving and legacy experts.  Each week, I will be posting my Words of Wisdom column and hope you enjoy it.  Each post will focus on a quote, my words of inspiration and an action you may take.  Our theme the month of November is “Forgiveness”.  You are invited to sign up to receive these WOWs in your email box by signing up for our RSS feed.  Thank you!

QUOTE:

“Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are cause by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.”

-Eckhart Tolle 

INSPIRATION: 

When you live in the future you are strapped with the fear of the unknown and don’t live today. When you hang on to stuff from your past and don’t let go, you again are not living today. For each day that you choose to live in the future or in the past you lose the most precious gift of today.  Life is too short and too precious to not enjoy it and live it. You get only one shot at life – it has been said this is not a dress rehearsal and you don’t get a “do over” – all you have is today. Don’t lose it because you are stuck in the past or are living in tomorrow. Today is a gift, treasure it, savor it, enjoy it, and share it because quite frankly this is all you get!

ACTION:

Purpose to live today. When you get up in the morning focus only on what is needed for today. Take captive every thought that either drags you into the past or pushes you into the future. When these thoughts come ask yourself… Is this something I can do today?  The answer will either be yes or no.  If your answer is yes, then ask yourself what you can do and then do it. If your answer is no then write it down on a piece of paper and stick it into a file that says “God’s pile” – it is no longer mine to deal with.  If it is something that brings you into the future the same rules apply. By the way, I don’t mess with “God’s pile” — it’s not mine anymore. I get to live today and enjoy it free from the mess of the past or the fear of tomorrow. 

To learn more about my programs on creating a legacy, visit www.crossingyourbridge.com  

Caregiving and Gratitude

Yesterday I visited my mother at Sunrise Assisted Living.  She had just moved over to their Reminiscence – dementia section.  At first I was worried that she would not like it, but after visiting, I found that the homey setting which resembles a very large open kitchen, dinning and living area was perfect for individuals at this level of need.

About six weeks ago, my mom had a short stay in the hospital and than spent three weeks in rehab at Fox Run, an Ericson Facility, my mother spent her days in bed, often in a hospital gown.  Although their nurses and care was excellent, my mom was bored and sleep most of the time.  At Sunrise, she is up and dressed, her hair and nails are done every Thursday.  They even gave her a pedicure.

I visited mom yesterday, and she looked beautiful…she could not get the smile off her face.  She loves her new room and we even played a game of cards.  It’s amazing how lucid she was after my experience last week when she barely recognized me.

Today while I was preparing turkey dinner, my brother ran over to see mom and had a Thanksgiving lunch with her.  I even received a call from her nurse giving me an update on her condition.  She said mom would not be able to travel to our home today, but she was doing much better after the “house call” from the Sunrise physician.

My heart goes out to all these wonderful caregivers.  Thankyou for giving your lives in the service of others so our loved ones can maintain their dignity and quality of life.

Reminiscence

Caregiving Dilemma: dehydration, over medication or what?

As a caregiver to my mom, I am forced with a huge dilemma right now.  A week ago, I went to visit my mom at Sunrises Assisted Living.  She was still in bed at 10 am.  Recently, she has been wanting to sleep.  She was excited to see me when I woke her up, so I helped her with her shower, and then helped her get dressed.  I was shocked to see how much she deteriorated in her abilities to manage on her own and it puzzled me.

Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad

 

How could my mom be experiencing such huge changes in her physcial and mental abilities so quickly and what could I do about it.  I decided to spend a few hours with her to see how she was managing her daily activities.

I took her to the dinning room and asked the chef to prepare scrambled eggs, toast, OJ and coffee.  When it came out, not only was it delicious, but I was thrilled too see my mom devour every last bite.  She had no problem managing her breakfast independently and we had a great time together.

Next, I invited her to play rummy and she was thrilled.  We started playing in the bistro, and soon we had a full table of other players.  Mom played quite well.  The only issue was that I had to remind here when it was her turn.

One week later, last Saturday evening, I stopped over to say goodnight and to my horror, my mother was in here wheel chair, looking off into space with a dazed look.  She did not recognize me, and could not speak or move her legs.  What was going on?  I pulled out one of her photo albums, and began to show her pictures asking her who these people were.  When I showed her a picture of herself, she replied, “Mum-ma”, like a talking doll.  When I asked her to identify her recently deceased husband — my stepfather –she  replied, “Pa-pa”.

I called the attendants in to help my mom to bed…and left in tears.  What was going on?  One thing I noticed is that my mother seemed very dehydrated, so I called the nurse and requested that they monitor her food andn water intake and make sure she is given water regularly with a straw as if she was in a hospital.

I noticed that she even had a problem swallowing the water and pills that night…and I was told that she has lost interest in eating.

What does a daughter do at this point?  What do you do when a loved one is unable or unwilling to feed themselves and begins to refuses food?

Please share your stories and experiences with me for my upcoming book with co-author and Legacy Expert, Meredith Bromfield called, The Designated Daughter:  Caregiving and Legacy Planning.   Thank you.

Forbes Interviews Andrew and Danielle!

Read the original:
Forbes Interviews Andrew and Danielle!

Shipping December 1st!

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Shipping December 1st!

Farrah Fawcett’s Trust provides a good lesson

It’s been widely reported across various websites in the last couple days that Farrah Fawcett’s will has been revealed and it “shockingly” disinherited her longtime ex-boyfriend Ryan O’Neal (father to her son, Redmond).  These reports are wrong on several levels. First, the document was her Trust, not her will.  You can read it here , courtesy of Radaronline.com.  This is an important distinction.  Wills are public records and must always be filed in probate to be effective, which allows anyone interested to read them.  Trusts, on the other hand, are private documents, normally kept out of court and the public eye. As I wrote in this article this past July, the contents of Fawcett’s Trust were leaked by an anonymous “source” then, and now the whole trust document has been revealed.  This is unusual.  Normally that is one of the primary reasons why trusts are used, to keep affairs private (and out of probate court). As the source previously leaked to the media (and as covered in my article on this blog in July), it was  revealed then that Ryan O’Neal was not a beneficiary.  So the recent exposure of the trust document is nothing new on that front.  O’Neal said publicly that he was not surprised and had discussed with Fawcett that their son Redmond would be the biggest beneficiary. So what did the trust reveal?  The real surprising part here isn’t that O’Neal was omitted (ex-boyfriends aren’t usually included in a trust).  Rather, to me…

It’s been widely reported across various websites in the last couple days that Farrah Fawcett’s will has been revealed and it “shockingly” disinherited her longtime ex-boyfriend Ryan O’Neal (father to her son, Redmond).  These reports are wrong on several levels.
First, the document was her Trust, not her will.  You can read it here, courtesy of Radaronline.com.  This is an important distinction.  Wills are public records and must always be filed in probate to be effective, which allows anyone interested to read them.  Trusts, on the other hand, are private documents, normally kept out of court and the public eye.

As I wrote in this article this past July, the contents of Fawcett’s Trust were leaked by an anonymous “source” then, and now the whole trust document has been revealed.  This is unusual.  Normally that is one of the primary reasons why trusts are used, to keep affairs private (and out of probate court).

As the source previously leaked to the media (and as covered in my article on this blog in July), it was  revealed then that Ryan O’Neal was not a beneficiary.  So the recent exposure of the trust document is nothing new on that front.  O’Neal said publicly that he was not surprised and had discussed with Fawcett that their son Redmond would be the biggest beneficiary.

So what did the trust reveal?  The real surprising part here isn’t that O’Neal was omitted (ex-boyfriends aren’t usually included in a trust).  Rather, to me, there were far more surprising elements, including that another of Fawcett’s ex-boyfriends, Gregory Lawrence Lott, received $100,000.  Further, her artwork was left to the University of Texas, her other personal property, including her household furnishings and vehicles, went to her nephew (who also received $500,000 outright), and her father received a trust fund of $500,000, from will benefit him while he is alive.  Fawcett’s charitable foundation is also a prominent beneficiary.

Who will manage this trust?  Fawcett’s business manager and producer, Richard Francis.  He will be charged with the difficult task of overseeing these bequests — and more importantly — the trust fund established for Fawcett’s troubled son, Redmond.

It has been widely reported that Redmond has struggled with drug addiction for years.  Fawcett obviously knew this when she created this particular trust document on August 9, 2007.  So, instead of leaving him money outright, she left $4.5 million to be used for his benefit through a trust fund.  When he passes away, what is left from that fund will go onto her charitable foundation.

The specifics of how this will work are a good lesson for others to follow when they have a beneficiary who is not ready to receive a chunk of change all at once.  The trustee of the Trust, Francis, will be required to pay the income from the trust fund to Redmond — or apply it for his benefit — at least 4 times year, and as often as monthly.  If this $4.5 million is conservatively invested to generate even a modest 5% return, this would mean almost $19,000 per month would be available for Redmond, without ever spending any of the $4.5 million itself.

Francis can also tap into the $4.5 million itself for Redmond, but only to the extent it is advisable for his health.  This means the money (again, other than the interest earned) cannot be used for things like education, housing, etc. — only health.  Clearly, Fawcett thought this through, because she gave the same trustee rights to use the trust fund money set aside for Fawcett’s father for many other needs beyond just health.

This trust provision allows Francis to carefully control the money so Redmond is benefited the best way possible.  And, for a drug addict like he is reported to be, this means Francis can spend as much as he deems advisable for rehabilitation (which would clearly improve Redmond’s health), without paying anything directly to him for fear of it being spent on drugs, etc.

The only flaw I see in the plan is that Francis is obligated to pay the interest on Redmond’s behalf at least 4 times each year.  This is still quite a significant sum of money to be spent on him, if his life isn’t in a position to benefit by it.  Plus, it is odd that things like education and housing wouldn’t be included, but that appears to be what Fawcett wanted.

Often, in my law firm, we recommend crafting specific trust provisions for people with drug and/or alcohol addictions that requires them to prove sobriety before receiving money, or tying other specific strings to distributions of money so that this goal can be achieved (such as requiring payments for drug rehabilitation programs).

The beauty of properly-used trusts is that you can be creative and use conditions like this for all sorts of reasons, in addition to sobriety, including promoting hard work, maintaining good relationships, education, and many other goals.  We explore how trusts can do this in our book, Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!, which helps families learn from celebrity errors how to properly plan for their heirs.

Fawcett gets a lot of credit for using a trust the right way to protect her son and still allow him to benefit from her money.  Too many rich and famous people don’t do this.  For example, as we discuss in Trial & Heirs, celebrities such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Jimi Hendrix, Sonny Bono, and Howard Hughes didn’t even have wills, much less trusts.

Trusts are not just for rich people.  Anyone with family members they want to leave money to when they die, but are worried what the money may do to them when they get it, should strongly consider creating a revocable living trust with the help of a good estate planning attorney.

Not sure how to find a good attorney?  Click here for a new way to help you.

Posted by:  Author and probate attorney Andrew W. Mayoras, co-author of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founder and shareholder of The Center for Probate Litigation and http://www.brmmlaw.com/ in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law.  You can email him at blog @ trialandheirs.com.

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Farrah Fawcett’s Trust provides a good lesson

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