End of Life Conservations

Feb 23

We had an interesting panel discussion covering end of life topics last month. The panel members included an attorney specializing in retirement and life planning, a funeral director, the security manager, and a social worker.

It was a good reminder to learn about what documents we need so others know what we desire as we get close to our end days. Some of the takeaways for me:

  • Documents: that are needed are; a will, durable power of attorney for finances, advance health care directives, and MOLST form.
  • Family needs to know the Charlestown procedures upon the death of a single residence in an apartment.
  • Pre-planning of burial arrangements is a good idea.
  • Joint accounts with relatives may not be the best arrangement. Creditors or a divorce attorney could come after those accounts and claim one-half of the assets since both names are on the account. It is better to use a durable power of attorney for finances.

Many people are not aware that Charlestown changes the lock on the apartment when a single resident died. A letter of administration from the Register of Wills is required before anyone can access the apartment. This policy was instituted so that the person’s wishes are honored as to who takes belongings from the apartment. The executor determines who else can enter the apartment.

We also found out that the EMS staff will resuscitate unless there is a written DNR order. That means that a Medical Options for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) is needed.  The Maryland MOLST must be signed by a physician or NP or PA. At Charlestown, the form has to be available for the EMS team to see, on the back of the front door or in the vital of life in the butter dish in the refrigerator. It is better to have a bracelet with the DNR notice as a person could collapse outside. The survival rates for older adults after CPR is very low so this is one area that needs to be discussed with family and the doctor.

The timing of the program was very good since I finished reading Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande in December. He makes the point that we are indeed mortal and as we face decline in our later years, there is a point when medical interventions may do more harm than good and can reduce the quality of our life. He is an excellent storyteller covering the last days for several patients including his father.

I am now reading  The Conversation: A Revolutionary Plan for End-of-Life Care by another M.D., Angelo E. Volandes. He believes that a life well lived deserves a good ending and that we need to talk with our family about the end of life decisions. He also heads up a non-profit foundation providing videos about Advanced Care Planning choices at the end of life.

I discovered that there is a game, My Gift of Grace is a conversation game about living and dying well. I met with other residents to talk about how to bring this experience to the rest of the community.

We can’t forget our digital estate. I have my computer password, the password for my password manager, 1Password, written down in a safe place for my executor. A resource to collect that information is available from Mike Vardy who has prepared the 1Password Emergency Kit

Another excellent reference for learning what is needed is a website with a catchy name,  GetYourShitTogether. This website has templates and checklists for planning.

Our culture is so youth-oriented there is a denial of aging that shows up in every facet of our society. Ageism is alive and well even in retirement communities. We are all aging. Get over it!

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Jefferson Had It Right

Jan 14



As Thomas Jefferson said, “I cannot live without books.”

After attending the Baltimore Country Public Library Books & Conversation & Coffee, I thought about the technology I use to read books. I still like to have a book in my hand, but it sure makes it easy to carry an reader when traveling.  I use the following apps on my iPad and Kindle.

  • Overdrive — App for iPad that allows me to download books from the library and read them on the Kindle Paperwhite. Overdrive also has audio books and videos for downloads. There is a Android and Windows 8 phone app too.
  • 3M Cloud Library — App for iPad that allows me to download books to my iPad. There are apps for other brands of mobile devices.
  • Zinio — App to read magazines from the library. This is another multi-platform app.

I thoroughly enjoy reading. I read a lot. I like to have 2 or 3 books going at a time. The Paperwhite was a Christmas gift. Ok, I bought it for myself, but it was my Christmas present from Dan. I bought a cover which works to perfection. The Omoton Kindle cover is very lightweight with a cover that has a sleep and wake feature.

Why would I buy a Kindle since I already have an iPad and iPad mini, you are probably asking.  It is lighter, smaller, glare free, and distraction free. When I read on the iPad, I find myself, leaving the book and heading to email, a game, checking the headlines, and  messing around. I had a good workout with the Paperwhite when we went on a week long cruise before Christmas. I downloaded four books from BCPL using the Overdrive app. I read three of them on the trip.

Dan discovered it also and started reading on it. I was reduced to using my iPad mini to finish a book on the 3M Cloud Library app. I got so used to looking up words using the dictionary feature, I find myself tapping the page of a “real” book to look up a word. I also like the feature that indicates how many people highlight a sentence or paragraph in a book.

The BCPL holds a Books & Conversation & Coffee once a month. A librarian or two comes to Charlestown Square lobby to meet with book lovers as we share what we are reading. The following month the librarian brings a printed list of the books we read. I am scanning the list into Evernote so I can reference them later. Here is a list of the books I read since the last meeting in December.

I didn’t pay a penny for those eight books. I love libraries. Bookbub sends a daily email listing books that are free or at a reduced price for a limited time.

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This is Retirement?

Sep 17

I did get elected to the Residents’ Council and am assigned to chair the Communications Committee. So this is what retirement looks like at Charlestown. I am also going to physical therapy three times a week to work on a back issue.

  • Friday – Sales Expo, host Residents’ Council Table after preparing slide show and handouts the night before.
  • Saturday – prepare content for posters and handouts for Fruits of Our Labor Expo on Thursday. Work on items for Communications committee on Monday
  • Monday – attend Website committee and chair Communications Committee. Send out survey using Doodle.com  to Council members asking them to sign up to help at the Residents’ Council table on Thursday.
  • Tuesday – attend Dining Expo and Spiritual Book Club. Attend Book Review after dinner. Send out email reminder for the Apple User Group meeting.
  • Wednesday – set up table for the Apple User Group and Residents’ Council tables. Attend training session on operating AV equipment for Elderhostel Sessions
  • Thursday – attend Club and Organizations Fruits of Our Labor Expo and be at the Apple Table and make sure the Residents’ Table is covered.
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Bereavement Services

May 18

I wrote about my loss of sister, mother and father a few months ago. One of the things that has been helpful for me to understand the grieving process and hear other stories has been the monthly support group sponsored by Professional Health Resources Bereavement Support Services. Fred Schneider, LCSW-C is the coordinator and leads the monthly Bridges program. We meet on the fourth Saturday in the City Lights meeting room on campus. There are interesting speakers and plenty of time for sharing. Both residents and others from the community attend. The program has made this grief journey easier. The education and support is offered at no charge.

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Settling In to Community Living

Aug 06

Dan and Ann

Where does the time go? Here we are heading to a six week mark on the calendar since we moved in. Life is good. The adjustment has been easy for both of us. It has surprised me how fast I got used to having a nice meal every night. We have sampled all the dining venues. We go to the Refectory for dinner before or after Mass, we head to the Chesapeake if we attend the movies in the Conference Center, and we go to the Atrium in our building the rest of the time. It is potluck when dining, you never know who will seat at your table. Sometimes it is a four top, sometimes a five top or even a seven top. We have some good times around the dining table as we get to know other residents. We don’t hear many complaints about life here from our table mates. We have learned to bring a sandwich bag for Friday muffin night. The blueberry muffins become our breakfast on Saturday.

I had to take the day off on Friday after entertaining family members earlier in the week. I was running around more than I did in Warner Robins. Kristin wanted to see the campus on Thursday during her visit so we hiked down to the pond in 88 degree weather and then on the nature trail to Cross Creek. We then walked back home after a tour of the Chapel and Main Street. No wonder my arthritic ankle was sore the next day.

The pictures are on the wall, the curtains are up in the bedroom and now we await the bookcase and entertainment center that will be built along the living room wall. We eagerly await the unpacking of the last boxes of books and art objects. I am filling up another bin of “stuff” that will go to the Treasure Sale. Last year the Treasure Sale netted over $174,000 that goes to the Benevolent Fund, the Library and other programs at Charlestown.



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Easy Grocery Shopping

Jul 09

George, the Shuttle Driver

So I needed a few groceries but I didn’t want to  fight for a parking place down at the Wilkens Plaza Giant. So I waited at the front of my building for the Giant shuttle that runs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:30 – 11:30. I bought my old Winn-Dixie bags and off I went at 10:40 am.  Now I have to get used to a new store and where are things but Giant makes it easier with a big digital sign hanging over  the main aisle listing the food item and aisle number. They also provide sheets by the main entrance filling the item and aisle number. I was back outside for a waiting shuttle by 11:10 am. The St. Charles was the first stop coming back on campus. George was the shuttle driver today. He takes your bags and leaves them inside the front door so you don’t have to struggle with grocery bags as you get off.

Since we don’t have to buy as many groceries (I wonder if we will ever use half the kitchen stuff we moved) I won’t have to load up with lots of groceries each week.

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