I recently found myself in a situation that was as humbling as it was heartrending. Last week, I was seated in the living room of a stranger's home, reaching for a tissue, deeply moved by an unfolding story of struggle and love.
The room was filled with loved ones, all focused on the family matriarch who, due to a sudden medical emergency, could hardly speak. Her mind, however, held on to the strong belief that she was okay, creating a painful paradox, a conflict between her cognition and her physical state.
We spent an hour attempting to explain the legal system to her, preparing her for what lay ahead. It was a scene of overwhelming confusion and palpable frustration. The situation reached an emotional climax when her daughter, the relentless caregiver, broke down in tears.
In a desperate cry, she voiced out the struggle that so many of us can relate to. The challenge of balancing a demanding job, being a dutiful spouse, a nurturing parent, and now a caregiver to her ailing mother. At that moment, she uttered the heartrending plea,
"I am trying to do well at work, I am trying to be a good wife and mother, I am trying to take care of you but it is so hard. Help me help you, mama!"
The daughter's cry for help struck me like a bolt of lightning. I felt her agony with every fiber of my being. The unsurmounting pressure of life and duty can break the strongest individuals, even if it is only for a moment.
Frequently, we postpone the task of executing our estate planning documents, mistakenly assuming there's an abundance of "time". The stark reality, though, is that health crises can occur without warning, and in the absence of legal safeguards like a power of attorney, families find themselves backed into a corner, compelled to call on the courts. This adds an unnecessary, and avoidable, level of distress and complexity to an already painful situation.
If you are reading this and know that you are without a durable power of attorney or an advance health care directive, I implore you to prioritize the implementation of these critical estate planning documents. Don't add to the burden of a loved one who is trying to care for you, help them help you.