My dad, Lee Heflebower, is one of my favorite people.
And I fall into that ‘sandwich generation’ where I am caring for my children as well as my aging parents, like many of you are. Today, I am going to share this message he wrote and then give a checklist of the things to have discussions about- both with the generation older than you, AND the generation younger than you. May we all be blessed to live until a ripe age, and yet let us always remember that we aren’t guaranteed even one more day.
As an individual who is, maybe, near the end (75 years old), and who has been associated with the funeral business for several years, I do occasionally spend a few moments considering how much longer I have on this earth. I have consulted my family and, put in writing my last wishes. I have also have made sure that my family knows where everything is located, i.e. bank accounts, insurance policies, trusts, wills and the location of various valuables. I have consulted funeral professionals to enlist their assistance in my plans.
When a person passes away, their family cannot ask them ANY of the above. Unfortunately, when you die, all of the information you have goes with you and is not retrievable. Think of your loved ones ahead of time. Tell them, write it down. You will be glad you did and they will thank you for it.
Retired Educational Psychologist
Associate with Heflebower Funeral Services
Discussing end of life issues for the sandwich generation:
First, begin with setting the expectation and environment. For example, taking your dad to lunch and “springing” on him the question, “So, do you want to be cremated?” is likely not the best approach. Instead, try a death party or start the discussion with, “I’d really like to talk about my end of life wishes, as well as those I love…Can we plan for that talk next weekend so you can have some time to think about it?”
Second, it is also important to make sure that you listen, and even take notes, about your and your family member’s end of life wishes. It can be a hard topic to discuss, so tread lightly. Remember also, it is their wishes you want to honor, whether or not you agree with them. It may be really hard to hear what your children believe and would want in case of their untimely death, just as it is hard to hear about your parent’s more expected, eventual death. However, both are important, just as sharing your wishes are to your children and family.
Example questions to discuss for all generations:
If you were given a terminal diagnosis, what types of treatments would you want? Which ones would you absolutely not want?
If you died unexpectedly, what would you want us to do/not do for you?
Have you assigned someone as your voice to make decisions for you if you aren’t able to? Do you have this written down anywhere?
What type of decisions do you want us to make for you?
What would you want us to do if the insurance won’t pay for the treatments you are wanting?
Do you want to be in hospice, a nursing/medical facility or home?
Who do you want to care for you? Who do you want to care for you if that person isn’t available or needs a break?
What spiritual needs do you have? What is important for us to honor? (a specific tradition, etc.)
What are your priorities in regards to end of life care?
Where are your important papers including your will?
Do you have life insurance or any other pre-planned documents we need to know about?
Is there a specific place you want to be buried?
Do you want to be cremated?
How do you want to be honored at your funeral? (ie. Music, charity, etc.)
This list is just a few of the questions that could be asked. The point of these isn’t to be morbid, but rather to be honoring. By discussing these things, we begin to accept that passing is a part of life we will all experience. We want to make sure that when that time comes, those around us have the information they need to reduce conflict and honor you in the very best way possible.