When The Dying’s Getting Done

By Katina Pontikes
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 old people sense

Many of my friends and family have reached the stage in life where planning for their earthly exit and afterlife has taken front stage; that and the declining health that precedes it: People without daughters frown and fret, asking “Who’s going to take care of me when I can’t take care of myself?” Sons are usually too preoccupied with life, and unaware of handling care details to be counted on for such responsibilities. Husbands, while extremely helpful, may predecease the wives, or they my go into decline and require help themselves. What a conundrum!

One woman consulted her financial advisor. He assured her that there existed a plan for just such a scenario. It was costly. Independently hired personnel (overseen by an un-conflicted group of professionals) would check on her, pick up her meds, drive her to doctors, etc. They would even be sure her favorite Snickers candy bars would personally be delivered to her weekly, along with healthy fruits and vegetables. Basically, it was a “Hire the family you always wanted” plan, with eager workers, whose livelihood depended on her staying alive and healthy. She loved this option, and I’m assuming bought into the plan while she had her wits about her.

My own mother talks about the myriad issues she faces at her late age. Her adult children are scattered among several states. Many of them hold demanding jobs. Several don’t speak to one another. There is almost no agreement on any subject whatsoever, much less how to best care for our aging mother. We debate whether Eastern or Western medicinal practices are best. It’s enough to hasten her demise just wondering about whom can best care for her complicated life and estate, both if she is incapacitated and after she dies. My husband and I brainstorm for hours on what options to offer her. There seems to be no “Golden Plan.”

One woman has already been in assisted-living for years. Her judgment is somewhat eroded. She asked her family for money for a young man who had visited his grandmother at the home. When queried about the purchase, she admitted the grandmother had since passed. The male visitor, always bringing cigarettes, told her he would visit her more, if only he wasn’t so broke. One didn’t have to be a genius to capture this scenario: Lothario in Waiting. The family was grateful to have financial guardianship in place so that Romeo didn’t hit his own personal lotto. Her scenario serves as a cautionary tale to the rest of us.

A popular option is to form a living compound with one’s dearest friends. It sounds so pleasant, several couples watching out for one another. Everyone watches movies, has meals, shares the “wine hour.” But what happens when nursing duties are required, and the place starts becoming more like a hospital? Or everyone is getting too weak to support their friends? Dreadful options abound.

My husband gave his own circumstances some thought. He relies on me to be his future caregiver, as I’m the younger of us. He went so far as to see if I was strong enough to support him, should I need to get him out of bed. We tried the “dead weight” lifting test. I gave it my best effort and wrenched my back. Well, so much for that plan. I personally read everything I can find on how to get ready for the final journey. I’ve learned that we are highly susceptible to fraudsters, eager to take our last monies. We must also be aware of relatives who want to “preserve our estates.” I can envision a monk-like environment being the preferred mode of living at the end. It would be so economical! I’m filled with nightmares.

I’ve decided a fast, fatal heart attack sounds like a good idea. Perhaps I need to ask my doctor to take me off those statin drugs I’m taking for my heart.


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