Here is my list of favorites:
1. Be kind to someone daily.It’s incredibly good for your soul and as part of this resolution you need to see your estate plan as a gift you leave for those you love. You can include endearing words and thoughts into your will or trust documents, or even write a last letter to loved ones. This way even in death your life can push the world into a positive spin.
2. Spend time with your parents. Some day they will not be here and all their wisdom and experiences will be lost unless you embrace it and them now. That wisdom may not be academic, but rather folksy like the secret family recipe or Dad’s best fishing tip, or how they endured war or hard financial times. But you will never regret the time you spend with them or caring for them, even if Alzheimer’s causes them to one day forget who you are. In a bigger sense spend more time with family. Plan some day trips one on one with a grandchild or even your adult child. As part of her own downsizing my dear friend divided all her family photos and mementos she had collected over the years from her five children and then invited them to a family picnic at her house. The kids and grands were delighted with their boxes of goodies and the story – letter she included about each one’s birth, including her set of twins. Families need these kinds of special memories to endure disability, terminal illness and a loved one’s passing.
3. Leave a legacy. My Mother was legally blind and loved it when I brought our mini schnauzer to visit with her in the evenings outside at the nursing home. She would order bacon for breakfast just so she could save the dog a bite or two. I donate to SC Books for the Blind and the library, Guiding Dogs and the Macular Degenerative Research Association because of my Mom. My Dad was a veteran, he served on the board of a children’s home for several decades and loved gardening, passions he passed on to me. I sponsor teens at Boys Town and local programs for disadvantaged children, and disabled veterans associations. While I like to literally plant flowers, I’m talking about beautifying your environment in a way that gives you and others joy. Charitable giving and the gift of time make the world a better place for us all. Consider your hobbies and interests, even something as modest as your example in sponsoring a child at a cancer camp, helping once a year with the upkeep of a park, or giving to the SPCA will create a legacy of love for the next generation. And your will or trust can continue your legacy of caring.
4. Take better care of yourself and your needs – exercise, good health, diet etc. When you are at your best physically and mentally, and have a plan in place for the what ifs in life it allows you to care more profoundly for others. Caregivers need rest and respite time to run errands. Ask for help. Just having the right attitude and some savings or insurance can determine how well you face disability. Disability is relative to where we live, what we do and how well we have planned financially. It is easier to manage every kind of physical limitation if we can hire someone to do the household chores, driving, yard work, etc. for us. It may be possible to move into less strenuous and stressful kinds of work if you have trained your brain to learn and are willing to adapt. Insurance and savings and being on solid spiritual ground are fundamental to peace of mind.
5. Learn something new about investing for your retirement and then act. Most of us are not adequately prepared for the years we will not work. We really can’t rely on the government or business to fully honor medical benefits, offer great pension plans or keep Social Security benefits at the same level. Each of us needs to learn not only how to save, but how to preserve, stretch, and make money with those savings.
Disclaimer: Information contained in this column is meant to be of general information on frequently asked questions concerning disability, elder law, estate planning and probate law, and does not contain specific legal advice to a client. No attorney-client relationship is created by reading this column.