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Jennifer has an important story to share about her experience with the loss of a loved one. She talks about why it is important to think about mortality, emotional balance, and advanced planning before losing someone you love. After the death of a loved one, there are so many decisions to be made, and our fear of making the wrong choices can be paralyzing. We find ourselves asking, What’s the next step? How will I do it? Will I do it right?
When we’re drowning in big emotions, managing the financial aftermath becomes a part-time job we don’t want.
If you are in this situation, you may feel there is a big mess in front of you right now. It can be organized. Even in chaos, you can figure out where you are financially, and where you can go from there. You can put the pieces together, organize the confusion, and create a financial plan that’s easily managed.
Inheriting Chaos With Compassion – The Lessons Continue
Have you ever noticed that the old adage “bad things comes in threes” really does seem to true? We go through seasons in our lives where we deal with multiple difficult issues. Thankfully, for most of us, we also experience seasons of relative ease with less stress. Since I finished my book, “Inheriting Chaos With Compassion” earlier this year, other complex family situations have become more intense. As reflected in my book, I lost my husband to Leukemia four years ago and my sister to a heart attack a year and a half ago.
Working through my sister’s estate was complex and stressful, but it is wrapped up and settled. However, her husband, who suffers from frontal lobe dementia has needs that are becoming more intense, and in the wake of her death, I am the person responsible for making sure that he gets the care he needs.
Simultaneously, my parents have made the decision to move into a continuing care community. I think they believe they are mostly doing it for me, but I suspect they will find the simplicity of no longer taking care of their home will give them some unexpected freedom to enjoy more of their rich lives. I can feel the stress of the looming move and downsizing whenever I think about what lays before us in the coming months. With my sister’s death, I became an only child, and my parents need more of my help. I am thankful that I can be present to help them.
I am also currently watching someone that I dearly love slowly lose his beloved mother to heart failure. He and his sisters are working very hard to be as fully present as possible for their mother in this last phase of her life. Mixed in with jobs, spouses, and children, they are all stretched very thin and exhausted.
All of this got me thinking about what further lessons I have learned as I have walked the path of change and loss with my loved ones.
Lessons learned with my brother-in-law:
Because he has frontal lobe dementia his behaviors have become more and more bizarre as his ability to reason and act rationally have declined. In my effort to keep him in the assisted living facility he initially moved into after my sister died, chaos reigned. I hired a dog sitter to try to let him keep his dog. I used two agencies to have sitters with him during the day to try to reduce his disruptive behaviors. I fielded endless phone calls reporting on those behaviors, supplies needed, and problems to solve. Supplies needed to be ordered. Everyone had an opinion. It all became very intrusive on my work and personal life, and none of it was alleviating the situation, and in fact, it was getting worse.
It would have been better for him, the dog and even myself if I had recognized sooner that a move was in order, as much as I hated to do that to him. The only reasonable move from his assisted living facility was to a locked memory care unit, and it seemed like such a terrible thing to do to him. Plus, it would require that I take his dog away. I had his dog kenneled three days to see how both he and my brother would react. It seemed to go OK and removing the very large yellow lab from the situation reduced the overall chaos for the caregivers and the assisted living facility. Although it took a lot of effort and some trial and error, I was able to get the dog adopted by some lovely people who were happy to have a geriatric old dog. He is receiving much better care and enjoying a much more stable situation.
As soon as that issue was settled I began the process of getting my brother-in-law to a facility where he could get more hands-on care. I worked with a specialist in matching people with the best facility for them, and it was priceless help. I strongly recommend recruiting that kind of help, especially if the person needing help has complex medical or behavioral issues. Now, he receives much more specialized care and detailed attention to his medications. As guilty as I felt for moving him into a memory care unit, it really is best for him. Guilt can be powerful, but I should not have let it stop me from implementing the changes that he really needed.
Lessons learned from my parent’s current situation:
As much as I felt that the move to a continuing care facility was the best move for my parents, they did not want me to “boss” them into it. As my parents need more help with many things, despite their still being very involved in life, it is easy to slip into the role of directing them instead of supporting them. But, they are still my parents and think they are the boss of me, so they resent the appearance of that dynamic being flipped on its head. My parents take their perceived authority over me seriously. My Mom still reminds me to wear a coat when it is cold outside and feels compelled to frequently tell me that I don’t eat enough and that I need more protein. It flies in the face of all parental authority to have someone that they think needs coat wearing reminding to tell them what is best for them. Thankfully, I realized that I needed to back off before they had dug their heels in too deeply, and they ultimately committed to making the move. I am grateful for this, as I believe it will give us more time in the future to invest in our relationship versus caregiving arranging, etc.
Lesson’s learned from my dearly loved friend’s situation:
As difficult at this time in their life is, my friend and his sisters have received an unexpected gift. It has been rare over the years to have time with just the four of them. His father died when the three children were young, and their Mom built a tight family unit as a single mom. But marriages, careers, and children made it more difficult for the core family unit to have time together, just the four of them. Impressively, as spouses and children were added, they have been able to stay just as close, if not closer, as a bigger family. As the “kids” have had to come together to make decisions for their mom and care for her, they have been able to sit, talk and reminisce as well. I have an aunt who is currently in a similar situation, but she is dying from cancer. My cousins have also been able to experience the old familiar closeness that was once routine. My lesson here is as hard as those situations are, don’t forget to look for the hidden blessings.
As each life continues to move forward, the lessons will continue. I want to be someone who looks for the best within the difficulties of life.
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Today’s Guest, Jennifer Luzzatto:
Jennifer is a Chartered Financial Analyst®, a Certified Financial Planner®, and a NAPFA registered financial advisor. She began her career in financial services thirty years ago as a fixed-income trader in a regional brokerage firm and went on to manage personal trust accounts, institutional portfolios, and a municipal bond mutual fund at a commercial bank. In 1999, she founded Summit Financial Partners, transitioning from banking to financial planning and investment advisory services. Jennifer holds a BA in Psychology and an MBA from the University of Richmond. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her daughter and their dog.
Jennifer Luzzatto’s online presence:
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