Sunday, October 30, 2011

For this Halloween, Night of the Living Will!

A few weeks ago there was a horrible incident that left my Great-Uncle Gary, age 75, brain-dead but on life-support in Arizona. I’d go on about details but it will begin my angry ranting over elderly abuse, especially our gay elderly and the outdated laws regarding definitions of ‘family.’

Gary’s next-of-kin situation was complicated and resulted in my grandfather having to drive from Missouri to Arizona to ‘pull the plug’ on his baby brother. Apparently there are still arguments over doing so and that is just not something one wants added to grieving. Wisely, my grandparents updated their health care directives before leaving for such a stressful trip.

Just before this I learned on the same day of two deaths: my dear friend Dante’s mother Estelita, a gorgeous woman who was very loving to me, and my colleague Jeanne, who was only 30 when she died of diabetes complications. This brought back memories of my friend and former coworker Kevin, who died in his sleep a month before his wedding, and David Thompson, founder of Busted Flush, a client who several of you know. Rory Root, founder of Comic Relief in Berkeley, died during surgery and it broke the hearts of many.

With all these deaths happening to friends and family, young and old over the last few years, this prompted me to plan my own living will as I’m way up and over in Minnesota with my nearest relatives in Missouri and the rest in California and Nevada. Anything could happen to me and though I’m comfortable with the idea of dying, I’m NOT comfortable with leaving a mess for my loved ones to clean up when they should be just glad I’m at peace.

At least I was lucky in timing: Minneapolis Community Education had a class in planning one’s own Health Care Directive just this last week. The instructor was a registered nurse who helped explain any medical questions just in case, and then since there were enough students to sign as witnesses, we just passed our forms around and completed them. But a note on the students: I was the youngest by probably 20 years and the instructor claims to have never had a male student in the class despite their greater risks.

Taking the class was very easy and I wished I had had the chance to take 'Avoiding Probate and Preserving Assets' this season but hopefully it will be on offer in Spring.

If you’re in Minnesota, the form is reasonably easy and doesn’t require a notary. You can find it here at

Part II can be tricky but the best part about these forms is that you can always make changes and then initial and date:

For those of you in other states and nations, search online for ‘Health Care Directive Form’ and avoid anything that might ask for money (unless it’s a nonprofit organization asking for a donation). You shouldn’t have to be charged for a form! And your town very likely has a class like mine did so for a few bucks and fewer hours you can be done with it.

Please, be sure to talk to the ones you want to be your agents about this form. Don’t surprise them when you’re in hospital, please! I’m guilty of it, however, as my agent is my brother and, um, he’s probably reading about it here...

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