Plan your life now to help family face future issues

| October 6, 2010 | 0 Comments

Over the past eight years, Diana Robertson said she has handed out about 10,000 health care directives to people at St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Shakopee, parish health fairs and area seminars.

She will be speaking about the topic at a regional seminar at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 18, at Guardian An­gels in Chaska; the event is open to the public.

As a hospital chaplain, Robertson said she talks about health-care directives with about three people each day.

“I’m often involved in end-of-life decision making with the family, and I’m also the chair of the ethics committee. We often are called to help determine the most ethical course of treatment in complicated cases,” she said. “Because I am involved in so many of these complex cases, it’s obvious to me the stress put on families when they have not received any kind of guidance from a loved one.”

By having a medical directive in place that designates a patient’s wishes, decisions by family members are more guilt free, she said.

Planning for all ages

Although many people think health care directives and powers of attorney are for the elderly, Ro­b­ert­son said that is far from reality.

“Every patient who is admitted is asked if they have a health care directive and if they want help preparing one,” she said. That is a directive from the joint commission of hospital standards.

Any living, breathing human be­ing should fill out a directive because accidents that leave people un­able to talk about their medical care wishes can happen to people of any age, she said.

One important point, Robertson added: Don’t keep the health-care directive in your safe deposit box. Make copies and give it to the person named and an alternate, to your doctor, to the hospital and others.

“I keep a copy in my glove compartment,” Robertson said. She also has one in her suitcase when she is traveling.

Jean Rief, pastoral care director at Guardian Angels, said she has seen the difference between families that have planned for the future and those that have not. So, the parish pastoral care staff decided to offer a program that dealt with a variety of life-planning issues — from health care directives to funeral planning, another issue to which many people fail to give sufficient attention.

Guardian Angels teamed up with Bertas Funeral Home in Chaska, which is sponsoring the seminar at the parish.

“They have seen a lot of families coming in and we have seen a lot of families coming in, when we are planning a funeral, who don’t have a clue about where to start,” she said. “They have very little time to get it planned, so tension runs high.”

Life should be celebrated at the time of death, but that is difficult when family members can’t agree or it is unclear what the deceased would want, Rief said.

The parish’s first life-planning program in July was offered on a weekday morning. It drew about 60 people who suggested that the program be offered in the evening for people who work.

Bite-sized information

“People loved that it was short presentations,” Rief said. “They got the important pieces of what each of these people do. . . . If they wanted more information from a presenter, they could follow up with a one-on-one.”

Rief said people were especially affected when asked to close their eyes and envision the person who would be making funeral arrangements for them.

“Once you’re gone, you are where you want to be,” she said. But no one wants to have their loved ones struggle with funeral decisions or medical decisions, she said.

Having funeral, medical care and other end-of-life plans in place is important no matter how old you are, she said.

A benefit for adult children is that at­tending a program such as this presents an opportunity to talk with aging parents about issues that can be difficult to bring up or discuss. Everyone at the July event received a health-care directive and was en­cou­raged to give it to a family member.

They were happy to get the document and to learn that it does not need to be notarized, just signed by two witnesses not named in the directive, she said.

“Another surprise for people is that the will is one of the last things to be used,” she said. “People were also surprised at the things they should be getting done besides the will.”

Among those things are trusts, joint tenancy, beneficiary designations, transfer and payment upon death, avoiding probate costs and charitable gift wishes.

“It was a great place for all the resources to come together and plan what you need to do,” Rief said.

Deacon Gregg Sroder said he is still preparing his presentation about church teaching on death and dying and the scriptural basis for funeral services.

“This is my first shot at this kind of event,” said the deacon for Guardian Angels. But, he is not without experience.

Deacon Sroder has walked with many people as they have planned wakes and funerals at the parish.

“My experience is that people are really open, especially if they’ve never done it before,” he said. “The basis of our faith is the hope of resurrection.”

Rief said, “It’s not just about being Catholic or being a parishioner of Guar­dian Angels, it’s about smart planning.”

Life planning seminar

Magnifying Glass IconWhat: A seminar for adults, 30 and older, to plan for the future, medical emergencies, your family, peace of mind, a memorial for the church. Get help filling out documents and making important decisions for yourself and your family members.

When: 7-8:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 18.

Where: Guardian Angels, Chaska, in the church basement.

» The scriptural basis and church teaching for funeral services by Deacon Gregg Sroder.

» Funeral, cremation and memorial options by Matthew Hendrickson of Bertas Funeral Home.

» Wills, trusts and powers of attorney by Barbara Brekke with Brekke, Clyborne and Ribich, LLC.

» Medical assistance and the five-year look back by Pat Zalusky of
Laker Insurance Service.

» Beneficiary planning to pass on assets by Mark Sanda with Principal Financial Group.

» Health care directives and health care power of attorney by Diana Robertson from St. Francis Regional Medical Center.

» Benefits of leaving a legacy by David Fisher with the Catholic Community Foundation.

Each presentation will be about 10 minutes, with presenters available to answer questions. The evening is free and includes refreshments and music before and after the event. Open to the public.

Pre-registration is required to plan for handouts, seating and refreshments. Contact Jean Rief at (952) 227-4095 or


Category: From Age to Age