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When Plans Change

This past holiday season was wonderful and busy at our home with children, grandchildren, and friends. Afterwards, my wife and I decided that we would schedule some travel dates for the upcoming year. So on January 2nd we sat down with the calendar and had a great time.

If you recall, it was a cold early start of January with snow and ice. That Monday morning I went to work. When I came out of a meeting one of my team members of my office grabbed me. My wife, Barb, was on her way to the emergency room.

Now, Barb had never been to the emergency room. Indeed, her only trip to the hospital involved giving birth to our three sons. So I was concerned.

When I got to the hospital I learned Barb had fallen on the ice while walking our dogs. Her ankle was terribly swollen and she was in a lot of pain. X-rays revealed she had broken off the ends of her tibia and fibula in the ankle area, and surgery was required. That Friday the surgery involved about a six inch plate and 14 screws being placed in her ankle. She would have to be non-weight bearing on her leg for at least six weeks and it would also involve a cast and then undergoing therapy at the end of the six weeks. Our trip that was to begin that Friday was of course cancelled.

I quickly discovered how inaccessible our home is. I obtained a wheelchair (which could only go some places), crutches, and a knee scooter. We have a two story home, with a curved staircase with many narrow steps. In addition, Barb cannot drive, again for at least six weeks. Suddenly I was a caregiver. And my wife was in significant pain.

Our plans changed. And my appreciation of what so many of my clients go through became clearer.

It is a story often repeated by families that come in to see me. They have plans; they have worked all their lives to get where they are and to get what they have, and they are about ready to enjoy the rewards of their years of efforts. Then life happens: dementia; a broken hip; Parkinson’s; losing a spouse—I can go on and on. As an elder law attorney focusing on life care planning, we guide families through the process, showing them what needs to be done not only legally, but also financially and helping them become better consumers of healthcare. We tie all those and other lose ends together.

My experience with Barb has been eye opening. I now realize how much of a partnership our marriage is; how we both do things separately and together to run our house and our family. I realize now how much I lean on her; how many little things she does (like make the bed, fix dinner, wash clothes, pick up around the house and so on).

But the experiences these last few weeks has been rewarding. I feel like I’m giving back to her. I enjoyed my first experience in helping her wash her hair and take a bath. I enjoy making her morning coffee and bringing it up to her in bed. I like putting together her meals, making them look nice, and enjoy seeing how much she appreciates it. I enjoy our new routine of getting her up and down the stairs, and making sure everything she needs is within her reach. I think our relationship has grown even stronger.

I have also learned that I need to appreciate and take advantage of the time we have left together; that we worked hard, but we need to play just as hard; that I am fortunate to have good health at this time so that I can be of help to her.

Don’t we all need to appreciate what we have? Life is going to throw us curveballs, or have slippery ice here and there that causes us to fall. We then just need to make a new plan, make the best of it, and help each other out.

It makes me appreciate the work we do with my clients: help them make plans, and when the plans are forced to be changed, showing them a new plan and how life can go on.

All of our plans will change one day. We just need to be ready to adjust.


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