Friday, March 27, 2009

Update on Death and Dying, Session 4: hospice, wills, planned giving.

Our session on Wed was sort of a whirlwind tour of practical ways to prepare for death.

Monica from Montgomery Hospice started us out with a presentation on hospice care. I was, again, impressed with hospice workers' caring attitude. Listening is a key part of their work, as are pain management and comfort care. The medical profession often gets a bad rep but hospice is a shining star. Monica cited new research about the amount of money hospice saves the health care system. By attending to the critically ill in their homes with consistency and care, hospice helps patients avoid expensive trips to the emergency room and long hospital stays. Medicare and insurance often cover hospice. Regardless of ability to pay, they never turn down a patient. I found myself wishing that more elements of our health care system functioned with the hospice's patient-centered attitude. It seems humane, dignified, and healing in more aspects than just the physical.

One of Monica's mantras is "meet people where they are." She described her work like being on an elevator: the patient and family push the buttons, the hospice worker is a caring presence on the ride.

We then shifted to hearing from Kurt, an estate lawyer. Now I admit, I kind of tune out when legal terms get thrown around. It's surprising how stupid I am about legal matters considering my father is a Law Professor. Maybe I just knew I don't have to worry about it because I think that he, or my lawyer brother, or my lawyer sister-in-law will always be there to advise me.

But, Kurt did a remarkble job breaking down the basics of legal planning for death. Most people think first of a will (which I don't have...) but there are some aspects to planning that aren't so obvious. A big element is getting a team of people in place. Kurt highlighted the need for:
- A Durable Power of Attorney - to take care of legal matters if you can't.
- A Health Care Agent - to make health care decisions if you can't.
- A Personal Representative - named in your will.

If you have children under the age of 18, you'll likely want to set up a trust. To do so you'll need:
- A Trustee and
- A Guardian

Kurt highlighted that you also want alternates for all these roles and above all else, the people you choose should be people you trust completely.

If all this makes your head swim (as it does me), contacting a lawyer is a good place to start.

Last, we heard too briefly from Alice Benson of Lutheran Planned Giving. She stressed that wise financial planning can ensure the charities and church that you care about now receive your support after your death. She especially encouraged considering Lutheran ministries in your will (if Lutherans don't support Lutheran ministries, who will?)

Some of her suggestions:
- Consider tithing your estate;
- Rather than leaving a big one time gift, leave an endowment that can be drawn out over time;
- If you have 2 children, consider a 3rd "ministry child" and split your legacy between all three;
- In your will, include a statement of your faith so that your children inherit that as well.

Alice has wise, creative ideas and loves to talk about them. She can be contacted through the Lutheran Planned Giving Website.

That's a thumbnail of the session. Our last session is Wed, April 1 from 8:00-9:15. We will review what happens at a funeral and give people a chance to plan their own funerals. That might sound daunting, but it's a wonderful way to reflect on the meaning of your life and death.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Pastor Sara - read your article on Hospice and wanted to confirm what a special group Hospice is. I am a volunteer with Frederick County Hospice in Maryland. I have participated in direct-service, The Kline house, and hope to be a part of Camp Jamie this May. This is a camp for children who's parents or siblings have died. I find this work very rewarding and it has taught me how to reach out to those who are grieving.


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