Sunday, November 17, 2013

End of Life Planning

The Urner family has often taken in long term guests, in the Philippines, in Egypt, in other places.  Readers of my blogs know we've given shelter to one Lindsey Walker, a political refugee one might say, escaping a more repressive state.

The "host" role is quite a bit different from the "landlord" role, but any lawyer will tell you it's still important to limit your liability.  Given only two adults in the house, I have to be sure the law does not treat us like a couple, at which point assets get shmooed together.

If we were married, even if just in common law terms, and I called an ambulance, I might be held liable for those expenses.

But we're not married, not by any standard, and any medical bill I get relating to her care I'm going to return, burn, or forward to her next of kin, unless the courts somehow find me liable for her condition in the first place -- a contingency I have to keep working to prevent (I must exercise mindfulness around my fellow human beings and not cause them injury through negligence, no kidding).

One of the guys at Thirsters the other day was sorrowful because his nephew had been killed by unexploded ordinance, one of the bomblets from a cluster bomb.

If I left cluster bomblets around my house and my guests picked them up or kicked them, not knowing their true nature, then lawyers might come after me.  I would be liable for their deaths and/or medical treatment.

Indeed, as a US taxpayer, you could say that I do pay for such injuries, as whenever US employees hurt themselves on the job, they're in a position to file claims, which US borrowing and revenue will need to cover if said claims are upheld, as many are.

I gave Lindsey some ultra-sonic rat repellants, devices one plugs in.  If a rat bites her in the neck and gives her a deadly disease, people might say I was not a good host and that my humble basement was too humble.  I'm not saying we have lots of rats, but many Portland basements are not immune from rodents, possums too in some cases.  We have squirrels in the attic and walls.  They're not rabid and don't usually bite humans.

One thing I'm very clear about is that even though Lindsey has very low body fat (she knows Victoria's secret or whatever) she'd be non-trivial to pick up and carry to the maxi taxi (the Nissan, which used to be hers).

We've used the Nissan for medical emergencies.  Lindsey doesn't have health insurance or much savings and an ambulance could be ruinous to her, financially.  As long as she's been ambulatory herself, transport by car was an option.  I've usually been the driver.

But I'm not about to try to lift her up, if she's comatose or simply limp and delirious, and I've told her that.  I'll call 911 and let the professionals use a stretcher.

I know she wouldn't try to lift me.  I probably weigh well over twice as much as she does.  If I pass out in the 2nd floor office, she is not going to try lugging me down a flight of stairs and out to the Nissan just to save on some ambulance costs.  That'd be foolish.  She'd likely injure herself just trying it.

But I'm saying it'd be equally foolish for me to try that with her.

An acquaintance of mine told me about dragging an inebriated friend from a bar (I think it was) and how heavy that friend was.  I believe he had help.  Two of them were trying to drag their friend somewhere, but somehow they dropped him and he hit his head.

How it all turned out I don't remember, but the storyteller was still traumatized by the event.  Another time I saw a father drop his little girl completely by mistake.  He was so torn up about it, although she was fine.

What Lindsey and I both need are contingency plans in case either one of us finds the other comatose or dead.  911 is the default answer, but more responsible adults, or those with the time, especially later in life, start getting their affairs in order.   My mom has done a lot of end of life planning.

Some phone number on the fridge, with a check already made out, might be the best answer.  "In case of death, cremate me here:  555-XXX-YYYY."   Lindsey and I should each have that, plus make arrangements for whatever ceremonies above and beyond corpse disposal.

In Lindsey's case, I think Satya would be a good person to help out planning ceremonies, notifying next of kin and so on.  In my case, I should exercise my Oversight Committee powers and get one of those Wishes Upon Death forms in the files.  I'd like to keep the Flickr and Facebook accounts public, my blogs.  I should start saving whatever emails are worth keeping...

Preparing for one's death is a lot of work actually.

I don't like the word "retired" because in physics work is any energy expenditure and there's no way around spending energy, even just breathing.  So life is work and work is life.  Death might be the absence of work, though some might say that's just what we mean by context i.e. death is context.  That's a metaphysical discussion for later maybe.

Besides, I'm not even legally retired.  I have a full time job.  I did participate in my wife's end of life planning, most of which she did herself, while self employed.  She was extremely responsible about managing her own death, having received a death sentence from her doctors (about three to six years, which she got).

Moving Dawn became problematic towards the end.  She stopped being ambulatory.  I moved her solo one day and we realized that was not a good idea, too much pain.  We realized we needed more help, which our community provided.

I don't have any funds budgeted for Lindsey's care.  Anything extra goes to the college where my younger daughter goes.  Ever since the coma discussion, I've been comparing notes with other friends, including some who are lawyers and/or landlords.  I'm trying to distill into writing what a non-lease extended house guest agreement might look like.

But then, at the end of the day she's planning to leave anyway, maybe storing some stuff in the basement, taking off for various adventures, some of them probably higher risk than anything she tries around Portland.  She's like a circus worker, a tightrope walker.  Someone living on the edge.  She lives her life at the limits as Walter Kaufmann would say (he thought you needed to do that to call yourself a philosopher).

People with dangerous work need to keep their affairs in order, soldiers, philosophers, and political revolutionaries included.

That's probably why Friends have a habit of being so meticulous in their record keeping and personal affairs.  Being a Quaker has been dangerous too, in different times and places.