THE BLOG
09/30/2016 02:16 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Hope is Not a Plan

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Hope is not a plan. And a plan gives you the best chance for control in the face of aging or injury.

The evidence is in and it says that in spite of our best efforts, most of us are wholly unprepared for the eventuality that we are all likely to face at one time or another: How to maintain control when aging or injury renders us unable to effectively communicate our wishes.

Maybe you've seen this scenario with a family member and carry the emotional scars inside you. I know I've seen it thousands of times. As a nurse of forty years, the visions are clear. Whether in the intensive care unit or in the community, the old tapes play out before my eyes and in my heart. As an ICU nurse, I've felt the crack of breaking ribs under my hands when resuscitating a ninety-year-old lady whose weight matched her years. Could this possibly be what she wanted?

Too often, the answer is "we'll never know." Because, without a plan and without a legal advocate to speak up, the medical system follows their standard of care: do whatever is needed to maintain life.

In that scenario, if you are unprepared, control is lost. You cede it to strangers or perhaps family members who are left to guess at what you would like to happen going forward. Moreover, family is left clueless regarding legal directives and financial resources to assist at this difficult time. It's unfair to everyone and entirely avoidable.

The path to control is for you to make a plan to Age Your Way. And I'm not talking about a verbal plan. The spoken word can evaporate overnight or it can be re-designed with discrepancies in memory. What to do? Plan and document - I call it P&D.

Most of us agree that a plan is wise, but it simply doesn't get done. Why? Because it can always be done later, when time allows. But, I'm writing to tell you the time is now. Putting your whole life in documented format takes time, focus, discipline.

I know because I took on my own personal planning and was surprised in the process. I discovered that there are four pillars required to make a plan comprehensive: Legal, financial, medical, and personal information.

These four elements combine to become your voice, the Blueprint for others to follow. Having it completed is a huge relief. Because, without a Blueprint, decisions made by others can last for decades of your life. It's entirely possible to live the final years of your life in a state of suffering, inconsistent with anything you wanted.

On the flip side, imagine stepping into the life of someone you love and carrying out their plan with no information. Just a few of the items you need include: Legal documents to act on their behalf, financial data to construct a plan and pay bills, full medical history, passwords, and insurance benefits. This is only a short list of what's needed.

The key is motivating both you and your loved ones to plan, document, and then share a written plan. Many of us have family members in decline. We see what's happening, but without a plan, we sit on the sidelines dreading the crisis. We have little to no information and know it's only a matter of time before our life is taken over in an unplanned and chaotic manner. The person we desperately want to help is unwilling or unable to share the needed material.

Finally, there is a way to get the ball rolling. Help is available in two steps. First is in the form of tangible motivation and the second step is a structured format to guide you through the actual planning process. This is doable for you and for your family. AgeYourWay.com provides the solution.

In this column, I'll be sharing stories, both encouraging and cautionary, to help you and your loved ones Age Your Way. In addition to stories, I'll provide hints on how to avoid pitfalls that are inevitable along the course of medical treatment and aging. You don't want to learn this information the hard way, as I did so often. I'll help identify the landmines for you in advance.

Please join me in always putting "Patient First!" It's what we deserve for ourselves and what we can do for our loved ones. As we continue our virtual conversation, you'll learn ways to keep the patient first in spite of the many barriers to care.

Since I can't reach out and give you a big healthcare hug, I'll invite you to connect with me through my website on Facebook, or Linkedin.