Council on Aging Answers 2017 - 21

COUNCIL ON AGING - SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

HEALTHCARE

Prepare, Plan... Peace of Mind
n Karen Fazio, MSG

Most of us have heard the horror stories about those
dying without a will. Occasionally, making headline
news is also the agonizing story of a family in turmoil
over whether or not to remove a loved one from life support. More common are the siblings who battle over
whether mom and/or dad should remain in their own
home or move into a long term care facility.
These stories may seem like remote possibilities that
only happen to other people. "After all, nothing will
happen to me," we often say. How many times have
you heard someone say, "If I die?" Ideally, we would
say, "I have my plans in place in case I become ill, and
for when I die." We live in a culture that recoils at the
very thought of decline and death. Denial is the very
stuff that comprise end-of-life horror stories. Family
arguments about healthcare, long-term care, money,
and property decisions often drastically escalate during
times of crisis, possibly causing irreparable damage.
Having the appropriate documents in place isn't for
the sole purpose of our eventual deaths, but in the case
of incapacitation, as well. For example, you may become
unconscious for a time and need an advocate(s) to speak
on your behalf and express your healthcare desires, and
to have the authority to pay your bills and take care of
other financial affairs. The trusted person(s) only has
this authority while you are incapacitated. Very often,
people appoint different people for each role. For example, one person as their health care agent and another
as their agent for financial affairs.
No one can carry out your wishes if they don't know
what they are, and if they have not been expressed in
a legal document. In reality, they will attempt to make

decisions for you based on what they would want for
themselves, or at best, on assumptions about what you
would want. This scenario is where family members
often divide and disagree due to individual perceptions,
knowledge, beliefs, and values.

Where Do I Begin?
Many times people don't prepare and plan because
the thought of it feels overwhelming and they don't
know where to begin, and/or they are unaware of what a
plan should include. The first step in preparing is to get
organized. This can be an incredibly empowering and
liberating experience, often leading to having that much
sought after peace of mind. You can begin by purchasing
a three-ring binder and gathering the appropriate documents. Your plan should include the following sections:
Personal Records and Documents
n Copy of Driver's License
n Copy of Social Security Card
n Health, Life, and Long-Term Care Insurance Policies
n Banking account(s) information
n List of Doctors, Pharmacies, and Medications
n List of Health Issues
n Copy of Marriage Certificate Pre-Marital/Post-Marital Agreements, or Domestic Partnership Certificate
n Copy of Death Certificate (for Deceased Spouse)
Divorce Decree(s)/Separation/Property Settlement
Agreement
n Copy of Passport/Citizenship Papers
n Copy of Military ID Military Service Records and
Veteran Disability Status
n Advanced Directives, Living Will, Wills, Trust
n Property Needs and Paperwork
n Vehicle Titles

Council On Aging - Southern California | 714-479-0107 | www.coasc.org	 Answers Guide 2017

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Council on Aging Answers 2017

Contents
Council on Aging Answers 2017 - Intro
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