As we age, being responsible to ourselves, our family and friends, our community, and for some of us to our God, means planning ahead. We need to plan for our physical and financial and other needs for the remainder of our lives. We need to determine how we want to be cared for at the time of death, and we may choose to discuss with our loved ones the structure of the mourning process. Of course we want to distribute our possessions and savings to family, friends and community in the way that we see fit. Perhaps we also want to create a living will to share our values with those who come after. By doing this pre-planning, we have the opportunity to minimize stress and distress for our loved ones. At JCCNNM, we are pleased to be able to inform people as to the arrangements they might consider, and guide individuals through these processes if they might benefit from such support.
Here are some links to information that may help in the process:
Get Your Digital Accounts Ready in Case of Death https://nyti.ms/2IlS617
Below is a "checklist" of steps to take.
Please feel free to check off a section when you are satisfied that you have completed your preparation in that area to your satisfaction.
1. Advance Directive: This is a written statement of one’s preferences regarding future medical treatment, to ensure that one’s wishes will be carried even if eventually you cannot communicate them to a doctor. This can be written with the assistance of an attorney. Other possibilities are written below.
911 Fridge Facts – This simple, straightforward form, obtainable through your local fire department, alerts any EMTs whom you might ever need to summon to your home regarding your preferences for Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment (MOST), and also your choice of a healthcare decision maker if you become incompetent. The EMTs are alerted by a sticker on or near your front door to look for a packet of information on your refrigerator which holds the MOST form and whatever other pertinent medical information you place there. The MOST form, which is co-signed by your doctor, is legally binding. The form designates whether or not you want resuscitation attempted if you are in cardiopulmonary arrest, and what other interventions you might desire. Without such a form the EMTs are legally required to do everything possible to resuscitate you, even if brain damage is likely to have occurred.
As with all your planning, we advise that your decisions be discussed with family and/or close friends.
A more detailed form regarding end of life medical and other care is 5 Wishes, which is also legally binding, and which can be obtained online. https://fivewishes.org
2. Financial and other practical planning – For most people, a consultation with an estate attorney is strongly advised. Depending on your circumstances, talking with a financial planner may also be a wise move. Again, consulting with and informing those closest to you is recommended, so that at a minimum they know who your professionals are and how to contact them at the time of your death. Your main support people should also know where any relevant documents are, and how to access them. Be sure that any relevant passwords are made available. Similarly, your support person should also know if you have a safe deposit box, including where it is located and where relevant keys may be found. Perhaps you will give copies of house keys to relevant individuals ahead of time. Your survivors should know about all bank accounts, insurance policies, investments, etc. It is helpful for your survivors if you keep all relevant end-of-life- and estate documents together in a designated box or drawer. It is also important to clearly designate your executor.
We suggest you obtain the Legal and Financial Worksheet from the Alzheimer’s Association, alz.org, 800-272-3900, which provides a very simple and clear way to organize much information.
It is generally very appreciated if those close to you are invited to claim photos, books and other kinds of objects which they will want in their lives. A useful approach is to ask those concerned to make a list of what they desire, and if there are any conflicts they can be calmly discussed.
If you own your own home and/or have any other significant possessions, your family or backup person should know where to locate all relevant papers for anything which will need to be sold.
Charitable donations are best noted in your will or trust documents. As always, informing those close to you who will be your heirs about such choices is often wise.
3. If there is any question of your cognitive competence, you might want to be evaluated to avoid any disputes which may arise in this regard down the road. It is advisable to determine who can take over the decision-making for you if necessary, be it a friend or relative, and probably also a professional advisor such as an attorney. The Alzheimer’s Association can be informative here providing guidance as to issues which need to be considered. Also potentially relevant are Tips for Helping Your Aging Parents by Kira Reginato and An Unintended Journey: A Caregiver’s Guide to Dementia by Janet Yagoda Shagam.
4. Other important information – Let those involved know about your organ donor decisions, and where the relevant card is. The NM Organ Donor Registry can be reached at nmdonor.com Done_______
5. Funeral plans – It is advisable to consider where you wish to be buried. If in a Jewish cemetery and in Santa Fe, it may be a good idea to purchase your gravesite ahead of time, so you are assured that you will be able to obtain what you wish. The only Jewish section in Santa Fe is at Rivera’s (505-989-7032), although there are certainly also other cemeteries. You also have the option to pre-plan your funeral with the staff there. This involves paying up front; doing so locks in the price, and saves your family from needing to make the various decisions on your behalf, at this most stressful of times upon your death. If you do decide to have Rivera handle your funeral, know that you can obtain a more affordable wooden coffin, consistent with Jewish tradition, from the Old Pine Box in Albuquerque (505-286-9410). They make a variety or styles and will ship to Santa Fe.
You also will want those close to you to know the rabbi or other clergy whom you choose to conduct the funeral. If that is not someone with whom you are acquainted, meeting that person would be highly recommended.
In addition to the actual burial plans, you might want to consider having our Chevra Kadisha conduct a tahara or ritual Jewish preparation for burial, which is a prayerful washing of the body, which is then dressed in shrouds and placed in a plain pine or bamboo casket, in accordance with Jewish tradition. shmira or watching of the body by someone sitting in the next room while reading psalms can also be offered, again in accordance to Jewish tradition.
Some folks choose to write their own obituary, alone or with their loved ones.
As always, it is advisable to inform your loved ones of all the choices you are making and the plans you have instituted.
At the time of death, family or other responsible person should promptly call the funeral home. It is helpful if your family doctor also has the names of your closest people and the selected funeral home.
6. Post-funeral rituals. If you have any preferences regarding how a shiva, the Jewish mourning ritual, will be conducted, that is also something to consider now. Traditionally, a shiva candle is lit which burns for the whole week. Your rabbi can inform you as to the exact timing of the shiva if a holiday intervenes. Traditionally after a funeral, the mourners congregate at the home of mourning for a meal of consolation brought by friends which includes round foods like eggs and chickpeas to symbolize the continuity of life. Each evening during the shiva the mourners say kaddish, the prayer of mourning, in the presence of a minion of 10 people. The shiva is followed by the shloshim, the first 30 days following the death, which is a time when your loved ones are still in mourning but resume their daily work activities while refraining from parties and such. Then comes the period of mourning when your survivors traditionally will be saying kaddish. When a parent dies, it is an 11 month period. For others it traditionally ends with the end of the shloshim, though some might choose to continue saying kaddish for the full 11 months. Sometime during that first year a headstone is obtained, and there will be an unveiling ceremony at the gravesite. Finally, on the anniversary of the death, or the yahrzeit, kaddish is said every year. Yizkor, a memorial service, is traditionally prayed 4 times annually, during Yom Kippur, Pesach, Shavuot and Succot. As always, discussing your preferences and choices can lead to fruitful and meaningful conversation with your loved ones.
7. Communication with family and friends is so critical at all stages, both to make sure that all are on the same page and that no errors occur because of miscommunication, and also because all the conversations can bring a family closer together. This can be a wonderful opportunity to discuss hopes and fears, appreciations, regrets, love, and more.
There is also the opportunity and need to inform family where relevant documents, photos and other items are located. In addition, it is most helpful to all concerned to have a list of people who should be contacted, with relevant email addresses and/or phone numbers.
If you haven’t a family or very close friends who can assist, set up a team with 3 or 4 other people whom you can turn to and who can function as your surrogate family.
8. Digital and other details after life. Your survivors will have various details to take care of, and it will prove helpful if you have alerted them ahead of time. Social Security needs to be notified. Subscriptions should be cancelled. Utilities need to be paid and notified. If there are any payments due to you, your survivors should know about this and be informed as to how to collect the funds. Community groups where you had a membership should be notified so they don’t keep sending emails, etc. It is beneficial to have designated someone to take down or archive any social media pages, and that can now be done. Legacy Concierge (650-380-0688, legacy-concierge.com )specializes in protection of estates and digital assets.
The Jewish Care Program in Santa Fe (505-395-4445) can provide excellent support and guidance at any point along the way, in the planning process, for the dying, and if guidance is needed.
When you have completed your planning and preparation on all these many levels, you have likely achieved some sense of completion for yourself, obtained more connection with your loved ones, and saved them much time and uncertainty. Good work! May your transition go gently.