Since becoming an attorney in 2006, I have been truly blessed in so many ways; however, in that same period of time, I have lost several people, my mom and dad, two of my brothers, my grandmother, aunts and uncles, and my mother and father-in-law. Each of these losses have been difficult and painful. I miss them and often approach their birthdays or the anniversaries of their deaths with sadness and contemplation. This week on May 5th, my brother, Johnny, would have been 59 years old. Sadly, we lost him in 2014 due to leukemia. May 6th brought the 4th anniversary of the loss of my mom. In 2016 when she passed away, May 6th was a Friday and Mother’s Day followed on May 8th. In December of 2015, we had lost my mother-in-law. So, for the first time, my husband and I did not have our moms to celebrate on Mother’s Day. Since then, as Mother’s Day approaches, I’m always reminded of the profound loss of losing both of these amazing women and the legacy of love each of them left for their children. I also think about the difficult decisions and unanswered questions that came in their last days on this earth. Each passed away in a place they would have preferred not to, a hospital. Both had difficult medical conditions. Both chose not to really discuss these conditions with their family members. Both chose not to address those medical concerns with their doctors or chose to go against their doctors’ advice, and both would eventually pass away as a result of those conditions. When I think about them, I think about what a difference simple conversations could have made.
Conversations with your Mother
Whether you choose to have these conversations today, on Mother’s Day, or at another time, here are ten things you should discuss with your mom to make sure you are aware of her health status, understand how she has planned for her care as she ages, and protect her in the years to come:
Names of all of her current doctors. Dates of her last appointment and the dates for any upcoming appointment. Ask your mom if she wants you to take her to her next appointment. Even if she tells you she can handle the appointments herself, insist upon it. Our moms are so used to caring for us. They are not likely to admit that they need or want our help.
- Discuss any current medications she is taking. Make a list for her and put it in her purse or glove compartment in her car. You should have a copy as well. Make sure to help her update the list when she begins taking a new medication, stops taking one of her medications or changes medication.
- If your mom’s phone has the capability of entering an “I.C.E.” (in case of emergency) contact, make sure that she has someone listed. If not, save your number in her phone as an emergency contact. If you have siblings, save their numbers too. If she has her phone password protected, does anyone else have the passcode? Does she have anything in her vehicle or purse that would alert someone of who they should call in case of an emergency. If police or other first responders cannot access her phone and cannot find any information on who to call in case of an emergency, they may not be able to reach you and inform you of what has happened.
- If she is elderly and lives alone, does she have a life alert or other emergency notification service? If not, offer to research some options for her. If she falls, gets injured at home, or suddenly becomes ill, it could save her life.
- Observe her demeanor, does she seem sad or depressed, does she experience anxiety, is she talking to anyone about these issues? If she is struggling, offer to help her make contact with a counselor or therapist.
- Does your mom have a current power of attorney? Is that power of attorney a durable power of attorney? Does she have a HIPPA release, Advance Directive, and Will? Does she know where these documents are kept? Is she happy with the designations she has made? Does she want to speak with her attorney about any changes in those designations? Offer to help her schedule an appointment.
- Does your mom have health insurance, automobile insurance, long term care insurance, life insurance, burial policy, or a pre-paid burial plan purchased? Where are those documents kept? Help your mom put all her insurance policy information together in one place so that she knows where there are. Help her review the policies to make both of you understand the coverage she has. Maybe even take her to meet with her agent to discuss whether or not she has sufficient coverage to meet her needs.
- Review her bank statements and credit card statements with her periodically, does she have reoccurring charges for memberships or auto-renewal items that she does not need or use? Has there been strange activity on her account? Scammers target the elderly with all variety of scams.
- On that note, discuss scammers with her too. I know I get at least 5 robocalls a day wanting to extend my auto warranty or telling me my social security number is going to be deactivated. The elderly are preyed upon by these scammers. One time, my father-in-law received a call telling him his grandson was in jail in Florida and needed him to wire money to the bondsman to get him out. Thankfully, he told them he needed to talk to us (his parents) first to see what was going on. They hung up. My son was safe and in high school in Alabama at that time. Give them some instructions on how to handle these calls if they receive them.
- While it is definitely not the most pleasant topic to discuss, your mother’s last wishes are important. Has she given anyone any directions on how she wants any funeral arrangements to be handled? Does she want certain songs sung, poems or bible verses read at her funeral? Just remind her that you want to give her the celebration of her life that she would want and deserve.
Cherish Conversations and Time Spent with your Mother
Simple conversations, they can help you help your mom live her best life in her later years, reduce anxiety for her and for you, ensure that she is receiving the medical care that she needs, and ensure that her wishes are fulfilled when she is no longer here with you. No one wants to think about a time when our moms are not with us, but one day, that day will come. Cherish her while she is here and make time to have simple, meaningful conversations and experiences with your mom on Mother’s Day.