Talk about, plan for end-of-life decisions, care

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As Sallie Maxwell got older, she knew she had to start getting her and her husband’s affairs in order. “Life will be a lot easier for our two children if we are proactive with regard to such things as wills, advance directives and funeral arrangements,” she said.

To gain this peace of mind, Maxwell turned to the Art of Goodbye program offered through the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.

“I learned about all these things and more in the classes. The major thing I learned has to do with funeral arrangements,” said Maxwell, who has already begun the process of choosing how and where she and her husband would like to be buried.

In many ways, end-of-life planning contributes to peace of mind for the planner as well as the survivors.

“Death and dying is a topic we avoid, but by not talking about it, we are asking loved ones to make decisions without our input. Placing that burden on someone else can negatively impact relationships and also the way we are remembered,” said Lynda Spence, family and consumer sciences educator for UF/IFAS Extension Marion County. Spence heads the Art of Goodbye project.

The next Art of Goodbye series is set for June 5, 12, 19 and July 10. Classes will take place from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the On Top of the World retirement community in Ocala, Florida. Adults of all ages can register here. There is no cost but registration is required.

The multi-session program covers a range of end-of-life concerns, from communicating your preferences to passing on cherished objects to loved ones.

“The class about putting one’s legal affairs in order was also very interesting and helpful, as was the class discussing what one gives to whom after one’s death,” Maxwell added. “The potential emotional component involved with bequeathing was not something I had considered prior to the class.”

Lynda Dillon wanted to learn how to make the end of her life easier on her two adult grandchildren, whom she raised. “I’ve made some arrangements here and there, but nothing that was coherent,” she said. “I have very little of material worth that I can leave my grandchildren. The most that I can leave them is as little trauma as possible at my passing.”

For example, before taking the class, Dillon didn’t realize that her 22-year-old granddaughter may not be the ideal person to make health decisions on her behalf in an emergency. She and her granddaughter are very close, and asking her granddaughter to make sure Dillon’s end-of-life wishes are followed would make her death that much more difficult, she said. Dillon has since asked her cousin to take on that role.

Even those who are not elderly or terminally ill can benefit from thinking and talking about end-of-life concerns, Spence said. “We never know what the future holds, but we can take comfort in beginning to plan and communicate at our own pace,” she said.

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The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

 

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