for release Friday August 15, 2003
by Melodie Davis
A Loving Legacy
The idea I'm going to put forth here is something I've been mulling over for about the last ten years as my husband's father died and my own parents have entered the years of serious aging issues, bringing to mind all kinds of things that I hope won't be issues for us and our kids.
Every time we visit my parents, or visit some of my husband's aging relatives, or check in with some friends who are on the older side, we think of the things that we would like to decide now while we are still in relatively good shape and frame of mind. I think a name for this instrument could be "A Loving Legacy." Living wills have become common but they mainly concern what you want done for you medically if you get to the place where you can't make medical decisions for yourself. Then there are instruments like financial power of attorney, and plans you leave with a funeral home or minister regarding how you want your death/memorial service etc. to be handled. Finally there is a formal "last will and testament" which usually indicates how you want your possessions and money to be distributed. But maybe a "Loving Legacy" can handle the things these instruments don't-the intimate family details-and enable decision making and care for you to be a little less stressful for all concerned. Here is a draft I will test with you as readers. The idea would be that any individual who would make out such a "legacy" with their family would only check those items they want to check. They would be free to add their own notes or items of explanation or direction. Parents and adult children could work through the piece together and then, I think, actually sign it as a sort of "pre-aging agreement" of understandings or ideals you would strive for. I don't see it as a legally binding instrument, but rather a sort of "gentleman's" agreement put on paper. Ideally this would be completed while parents are in their 40's or 50's. A Loving Legacy For parents to check applicable items and sign: Being of sound body, mind and spirit, I would like for you, my children, to do the following things at the appropriate point in the future when after much thought, prayer, wrestling, and research, you think it is for my own good:
___ Tell me when I need a hearing aid. Tell me if I should turn my TV down when you come to visit.
___ Tell me when I really need to start using a cane or a walker or a wheelchair.
___ Tell me when it is not safe for me to live by myself anymore.
___ Tell me when I should stop driving.
___ Tell me when I need to consult one of the children before making a quick or big financial decision.
___ Tell me when I need to have someone go over my finances or checkbook.
___ Tell me when I really have to go to the doctor (if I'm stubborn).
___Tell me when I need to eat better, or stop taking too many nutritional supplements just because my friends take them.
___ Tell me if you think I'm really, really getting forgetful and that I need to see if there is any medicine that will help.
___ Tell me if I need to take a bath, or if you think there is something that can be done about my urinary incontinence, prostate, or other toileting problems.
___ Tell me if I wear too much perfume, aftershave, make up, or that my clothes don't match.
Signed ______________________________ Date ______________________________ For children to sign: We, the undersigned children, because we love, respect, and honor you-want to uphold your dignity and decision-making abilities. We honor and respect the fine qualities you possess and the way you have conducted your life, and wish to help you make your later years as successful, peaceful and happy as they possibly can be. We pledge to talk about the items you have checked and then, when necessary, will use the above as your permission for us to help you make the decisions you know (when in your best frame of mind) need to be made.
Signed ______________________________ Date ______________________________
What do you think? What have I missed? What wouldn't you include? What do older parents think of this idea? Would it actually work? Write to me at the address below and depending on response, I may do a Draft 2!
Feel free to cut this out of the paper, print off the computer, or write to me for a free printed copy or permission to reprint at:
Write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 785 words; end material = 105 words
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