What would happen to my mother if I died before her?
I have been pondering this question for the last few weeks.
My estate papers were set up to identify "who" would resume the care responsibilities for my mother, but I did not have a written plan specifying the "how", or the detail plan, should the unthinkable happen. Truthfully, I refused to give this important matter the attention it deserved because it can be very difficult to think about your own mortality. I believed the possibility of my death, preceding my mother's death, was highly unlikely.
It wasn't until I recently realized this way of thinking and lack of planning is a gamble with a risk we cannot afford to take.
I was contacted by John, an old friend from high school, who shared the news of his younger brother's recent death. John's brother, my former classmate, Roy, was found dead by their other brother, Mike, after Roy called to say he wasn't feeling well earlier in the day. Roy was the designated caregiver for their 87-year-old mother, who was unable to look after herself after a stroke left her paralyzed on one side, and their uncle.
After Roy's death, Mike, immediately stepped in and resumed caregiving responsibilities, because he lived closest to their mother and uncle, but he needed a respite. He found himself split between two households that were two hours apart, in order to look after both mother and uncle for days and weeks at a time. John, widowed and a father of three young adult boys, would drive from Virginia to assist in the care of their mother to allow Mike to be at home with his family in Vermillion, Ohio.
Mike eventually requested that their cousin take over the responsibility of their uncle, who was their cousin's father. From there, they only had to cover the care of their mother. For two months, Mike and John agreed to a coverage plan that met both of their needs.
Mike was remodeling his home to eventually move their mother in with him.
The families had to make sacrifices during this transition to allow the brothers to make the necessary lifestyle adjustments needed to gain a sense of stability and normalcy.
What I learned from John's Situation
John's story reminds me of the importance of having a detailed plan in place.
It's critical to have your paperwork formalized in the event that something unexpected happens; the plan of action is clearly spelled out in writing.
Another thing I learned from John's story is how important it is to revisit your care plan regularly in order to have the appropriate care team members in place. As circumstances change, it's quite possible that the capabilities of your care team may lessen or increase over time. When I evaluated my own care plan for my mother a little more closely, I realized that the person I originally named as my mother's designated caregiver was a not a realistic choice today.
John's situation reminded me to revisit my decision on the "who" and more importantly, the "how" in my care plan. I realized how important it is to map out the particular details of what should happen should my death precede my mother's.
Plan details should include
A Personal Care Plan
Contact Information for Members of Your Caregiving Team
A Personal Care Budget - including medications, equipment, personal care items, etc.
As you are making these arrangements, it's important to talk to your care recipient along with the identified future caregiver to handle the plan details. This allows everyone to feel more at ease should the caregiving responsibilities need to be transferred at a later time. Provide a hard copy of your detailed plan once everything is agreed upon.
I understand how unpleasant of a conversation this can be, but it's a necessary one. There's nothing better than being able to provide peace of mind for everyone should the "unthinkable" happen.
How did John's story impact you? Comment below and share your thoughts!