Most Americans believe that thinking or talking about death is something that should be avoided at all costs. However, authors and publications are increasingly advocating for a new approach that doesn’t shy away from the realities of life. One book that may change your mind about approaching the subject of death with your senior loved one is “Being Mortal” by surgeon and author Atul Gawande. Born in Brooklyn to Indian immigrants to the United States, Gawande eventually earned his Master of Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health in 1993 and since been a prolific author and surgeon.
A Surgeon’s Perspective on Death
In his book, “Being Mortal”, Gawande goes into detail about the heart wrenching final days of patients, along with their families reactions and futile lifesaving measures that simply do not work. Gawande explains that in his own profession, individuals treat aging, frailty, and death as if they were clinical problems to solve, not heart wrenching and traumatizing moments to be afraid of. Gawande finds that being in this environment has helped ease the process of death for those closest to him as well, finding peace knowing that it is someone’s time to go and that there was nothing that could be done.
In addition, author Oliver Sacks is another prominent person who wants us to change our perceptions surrounding death and dying. A successful neurologist and author, Sacks published an interesting op-ed in the New York Times about learning how his cancer had metastasized. Sacks was grateful that his doctors were able to think both in medicinal and humanist terms, helping him to understand the physical realities of disease while also being treated like a person.
Talking About Death in Bhutan
Another example of why talking about death can be beneficial for seniors comes courtesy of the BBC. This BBC report was on Bhutan, rated as one of the happiest countries in the world. Residents believe that talking about death at least once a day generates happiness. Instead of avoiding death altogether, residents embrace the reality of death and rejoice in the life that they share together. This type of thinking helps people focus on leading happier and richer lives, and although it seems counter intuitive at first, it’s a useful tool for coming to terms with reality in a communal fashion.
BBC reporter Eric Weiner spoke with a man named Karma Ura who had this to say about dying and death: “You need to think about death for five minutes every day. It will cure you. It is this thing, this fear of death, this fear of dying before we have accomplished what we want or seen our children grow. This is what is troubling you. Rich people in the West, they have not touched dead bodies, fresh wounds, rotten things. This is a problem. This is the human condition. We have to be ready for the moment we cease to exist.”
Preparing for the Passing
In Michelle Knox’s Ted Talk “Talk About Your Death While You’re Still Healthy”, she discusses how Western culture is different from many societies in the world. While alive, we seem to avoid the process of talking about death and when we do finally pass, it results in an outpouring of trauma and emotion, as well as a confusing period of time where remaining family members may struggle to figure out what your wishes for funeral arrangements are and estate planning.
Michelle notes that our refraining from talking about death causes us to be unprepared for grief and unsure of what to do when those closest to us pass. By preparing for the future, we can be more at peace when the time does come.
Will Writing for Seniors
Every adult should have a will. Without a will, an individual is considered to be “intestate”, which allows the government to decide whom your assets and property get distributed to. If you are the adult child of a senior who has not executed a will, it’s important to get your parent to get in contact with a lawyer and to draw up a will and to ensure you know the location and the name of the executor. Your senior has worked hard to accumulate their wealth and even it’s not a fortune, they’ll still want to ensure that everything is still transferred to their loved ones.
A will is a legal document that simply describes the way in which a deceased person wishes their savings and assets to be distributed when they die. Wills come under state, not federal, law. Meaning that in order to prepare a will, your senior must follow the dictates of the law in their state. State laws vary when it comes to executing a will. For example, in some states an oral will is valid while in other states handwritten wills are accepted without witness signatures. It’s best to confer with a lawyer familiar with your senior’s state laws regarding wills before trying anything on your own.
Once an individual passes away, their assets become part of an estate. An executor must be named beforehand, and that person becomes the one whose responsibility it is to ensure the will is carried out as intended and that assets are distributed as directed. An executor for a will can also hire someone else such as a lawyer to ensure that the assets are correctly distributed.
Are you prepared to help your senior carry out their end of life wishes? Are you looking into a senior living facility for your family member that will support their senior health? Landmark Senior Living is available today to take you and your loved one to come see one of our seven premier and affordable communities in person. Call now for more information.