What’s the best gift you can leave behind for your kids and family?
Money? A family vacation? Prepaid college? A puppy?
We would argue that the best gift you could leave your family is to ease the burden and the stress your family would experience if you were no longer "in the picture" due to death or disability.
Ask anyone who has had to make life and death decisions for a sick loved one, and they can tell you of the stress, anxiety, and hardship they experienced because they were ill-prepared for that task. All that suffering can be prevented by planning ahead.
Ask anyone who has lost a family member and they will tell you this: it is an enormous amount of work and stress to simultaneously cope with loss and deal with all the paperwork involved. However, you have the ability to reduce both the workload and the amount of stress for your loved ones by planning ahead.
Give the gift of proactive planning ahead for the inevitable that will come. We know this is a negative topic and many don’t want to talk about it. But bear with us. The rewards for both yourself and your loved ones because of planning are unequivocally worth the minimal time and emotional energy it takes today to proactively deal with serious illness and eventual death.
Preparing in advance for the realities of the future allows you to reap benefits you would otherwise miss out on if you put it off. For example, by planning ahead, you have the opportunity to gather more resources (both internal and external), consider more options to deal with future adverse events, and the ability to make better decisions when they are not made in the heat of the moment.
How planning protects your health
Numerous studies have found a positive relationship between proactive planning and improved measures of health and psychological well-being, such as reduced stress, increased mental and physical health, personal growth, purpose in life, and satisfaction with life. [i],[ii],[iii], [iv]
In contrast, lack of planning leads to stressful crisis management and is usually associated with limited options and negative health and psychological outcomes, particularly in the older persons facing the decline associated with aging[v],[vi] or receiving the wrong medical treatments when seriously ill. In addition, when you are seriously ill, you won’t be able to think and speak for yourself. Doctors will enlist your loved ones to help them make life and death decisions on your behalf and they will experience significant stress and anxiety and even long-term psychological consequences when they are so ill-prepared for their role as substitute decision-makers.
If your affairs are not in order and you pass away, your family will be ill-prepared for your loss and will have to scramble to pick up the pieces in your absence.[vii],[viii] And as a worst-case scenario, they may not agree on how best to deal with your estate. In the absence of your documented wishes, they battle it out in the courts, causing a lot of pain, hardship and costs. But all of this suffering can be easily avoided by taking the time to plan ahead.
If you are ready to take the steps necessary to ease the burden on your loved ones and give them a gift that will shape their future for the better, create your plans today.
Not sure where to start? Let us guide you through this process. We at Plan Well Guide have joined the roster of Trusted Partners at Viive Planning. We've partnered to encourage people think ahead and plan ahead for their future including serious illness and death. Engage with us in giving the gift of proactive planning. Your future self and your family will thank you for your gift of planning ahead!
[i] McMahan, R. D., Tellez, I., & Sudore, R. L. (2021). Deconstructing the Complexities of Advance Care Planning Outcomes: What Do We Know and Where Do We Go? A Scoping Review. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 69(1), 234–244. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.16801
[ii] Sougleris, C., & Ranzijn, R. (2011). Proactive coping in community-dwelling older Australians. International journal of aging & human development, 72(2), 155–168. https://doi.org/10.2190/AG.72.2.d
[iii] Thoolen BJ, de Ridder D, Bensing J, Gorter K, Rutten G. Beyond good intentions: The role of proactive coping in achieving sustained behavioural change in the context of diabetes management. Psychol Health. 2009 Mar;24(3):237-54. doi: 10.1080/08870440701864504. PMID: 20204991.
[iv] Greenglass, E., Fiksenbaum, L., & Eaton, J. (2006). The relationship between coping, social support, functional disability and depression in the elderly. Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 19(1), 15-31. https://doi.org/10.1080/14659890500436430
[v] Pinquart, M., & Sörensen, S. (2002). Psychological Outcomes of Preparation for Future Care Needs. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 21(4), 452–470. https://doi.org/10.1177/073346402237632
[vi] Gould, O. N., Dupuis-Blanchard, S., Villalon, L., Simard, M., & Ethier, S. (2017). Hoping for the Best or Planning for the Future: Decision Making and Future Care Needs. Journal of applied gerontology : the official journal of the Southern Gerontological Society, 36(8), 953–970. https://doi.org/10.1177/0733464815591213
[vii] Hebert RS, Dang Q, Schulz R: Preparedness for the death of a loved one and mental health in bereaved caregivers of dementia patients: Findings from the REACH study. J Palliat Med 2006;9:683–693.
[viii] Houts PS, Lipton A, Harold A, Simmons MA, Barthlolomew MJ: Predictors of grief among spouses of deceased cancer patients. J Psychosoc Oncol 1989;7:113–126.