Category Archives: Uncategorized

Parents Abused by Adult Children

Parental abuse is a silent problem, widely prevalent but not widely discussed. Search online and most of what comes up is about parents who abuse children.

Parents who are bullied by their adult children have trouble admitting it; they may even deny that there is a problem. They feel depressed, and anxious. Too often they blame themselves, believing themselves to be at fault and feeling ashamed that they “didn’t do the right thing” and that’s why they’re being abused.

Many parents put up with the bullying because they don’t want to end a relationship with a child they love. Some need their child’s help with care giving. Others fear their child’s unpredictable aggression if they speak up about their feelings.

Estate planners come across these painful situations when parents draw up a will. They often recommend that parents talk openly with children about inheritance plans, explaining their reasons about inheritance distribution. The rationale is that bullies will change their behavior in anticipation of future reward.

This advice feels dangerous to parents who live in fear of the next round of indignity. Odds are that the bullying child will become even more so.

It’s sad, but staying silent about inheritance plans is a safety shield for abused parents, a way to regain a sense of dignity and self-esteem.

How much better to find the courage to say to a bully, any bully, “Back off, you’re crossing a line here” while you’re alive. For those parents who don’t have the strength and courage to say this, there’s no law that says your children are entitled to inheritance.



Dad gives Family a Gift from the Heart

Roger, the husband of my friend Diana, needed heart surgery that carried serious risks. He and Diana prepared for the worst, making sure their financial and legal documents were up-to-date. Perhaps just as important, they were open and honest about their fears of Roger’s chances of surviving. They celebrated their decades of love and the life they had built together with their four children.

The surgery was scheduled for two weeks in advance. Roger and Diana asked their children to visit earlier, rather than gathering on the day of the surgery. During those preceding days, the family pored over photo albums and home movies, laughing and remembering happy times and sharing feelings about what they mean to each other. Tom, the youngest son, who had been estranged from the family for years, didn’t show up.

Roger spent time alone with each of the children who came, wanting to be sure they had the chance to say to him what was personal for them. He wanted to give each their own blessing and tell them individually that he loved them.

At the time of this writing, Roger is recovering, but he will need additional surgery. He would still like to talk with Tom, but this may not happen. Tom may find himself in a ‘race-to-the-bedside” situation. On the other hand, he may not care.

Consider what Roger has given to his family, because he was willing to open his heart to the people he loved. He gave them a gift of a conversation from the heart.

Funerals at the Mall

Looking for a custom coffin or personalized urn for your ashes? You might find just what you’re looking for at the local mall. Forest Lawn Cemetery in southern California has a novel marketing plan to bring the cemetery to you.

The company has set up kiosks in malls where you can check out cremation urns, see coffin selection brochures and learn about the wide range of burial services, none of which , unfortunately, you will be around to appreciate.

In between the latest arrivals at Gap, Banana Republic, and Macy’s, you can browse among the colorful offerings for your remains. It’s a chance to get comfortable with the fact that we will die, which too many of us don’t like to think about.

Maybe this signals a new comfort level with the idea of mortality. If you’re a baby boomer, you probably like to have things your way. You want a ‘green’ funeral, which requires no urn, vault, or coffin? What about a coffin that reminds you of your beloved T-Bird? An urn emblazoned with Go-Niners or other favorite sports team? Just check out the brochure.

One can only hope that along with customized funeral accessories, you also have a living will, a durable power of attorney for health care, an advance directive and a will. Those documents will mean more to your family than the logo on your final resting place.

Fate and the Random Event

One week ago, 239 people boarded Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in Kuala Lumpur, expecting to land in Beijing a few hours later. The plane vanished and has still not been found. Vanishing from the world’s radar screen practically never happens.

A woman vacationing in Florida is killed by a giant stingray that leaped out of the water and struck her as she sunbathed on the deck of a boat. Stingrays practically never do that.

In the same week, a tourist visiting a friend in Manhattan was sleeping late when he was killed by a construction crane which toppled and crushed the friend’s townhouse. Cranes rarely topple.

Freak events always catch us off guard. We can’t even picture the weird things that can happen to us. The ones we can imagine, we try not to think about.

Last week, the invoice for my long-term care insurance arrived. It’s a payment I’d rather not make.  For that money,I could take a cruise or other trip, landscape the front yard or redecorate the living room. Why should I pay this premium when I feel good? Do I even want to hang around if I can’t do things for myself? Wouldn’t the money be better spent investing in Amazon or Apple stock? And on, and on…..

My husband died in a freak accident. So did the daughters of two of my dearest friends. No one who suffered a traumatic loss because of a random event ever feels truly safe again.

Most of the people I know don’t have long-term care insurance. They’re protected by the same illusions I used to wrap myself in.  Perhaps the difference between us is that they haven’t been on the loss side of a sudden freak event.  They’re not stalked by the feeling that disability or death can rob them of someone they love in an instant.

Temperament still inclines me towards optimism. In an ideal world, I’ll be vibrant and vital until my late nineties, then die quickly without pain or fuss.  In the meantime, I’ll just pay the premium.

Sharing the Passage into Dying

Whether you think tweeting from a hospital bed is an invasion of privacy or not, this journey of a son holding his mother’s hand during her final journey is heartfelt and moving.

NPR’s Scott Simon Tweets From His Mother’s Hospital Bedside

ByDavid Wessel

Will O’Leary
NPR’s Scott Simon

Scott Simon, host of NPR’s Weekend Edition, is tweeting from the hospital bedside of his mother, Patricia Lyons Simon Newman Gilband, as she approaches death — and has drawn 1.2 million followers to a moving, occasionally funny and very 21st century chronicle of one of life’s universal experiences, the death of a parent.

One Tweet posted on his feed reads “I am getting a life’s lesson about grace from my mother in the ICU. We never stop learning from our mothers, do we?”

I just realized: she once had to let me go into the big wide world. Now I have to let her go the same way.

— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) July 28, 2013

ICU seems to be staffed by good, smart young docs who think they know everything, and wise RN’s who really do.
— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) July 28, 2013

When my mother woke briefly I sang her My Best Girl. She replied w/ You Are the Sunshine of My Life. Broadway in the ICU.

— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) July 28, 2013

If we only truly realized how little time we have..,
— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) July 28, 2013

Mother asks, “Will this go on forever?” She means pain, dread. “No.” She says, “But we’ll go on forever. You & me.” Yes.

— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) July 28, 2013

Tried to buy coffee for family w/ a mother in ICU too. Barista overheard, refused my card. “Your money’s no good here.”
— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) July 27, 2013

What is the idea behind deep fried onion rings in a hospital cafeteria?

— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) July 26, 2013

I am getting a life’s lesson about grace from my mother in the ICU. We never stop learning from our mothers, do we?

— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) July 25, 2013


John Lennon and Life

John Lennon sang “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”  He wrote the words for ‘Beautiful Boy’, a song he dedicated to his son Sean.

I know another John. Last week, one of his lunch meetings was cancelled. Because he keeps his bicycle and helmet in the office, John is  always ready for breaks like this. The sun had finally peeked through the clouds. A leisurely ride and he’d be back in time for his 2 o’clock meeting.

Two miles away, Robert’s wife was insisting on driving him to his doctor’s appointment.  Irritated at how she and the kids were ganging up on him about giving up the car keys, Robert, 85 years old, wouldn’t listen to her.

“Stop badgering me. I’m just going two miles,” he said, slamming the front door as he left. Climbing into the Lincoln, he slowly backed out of the driveway.

Ten minutes later, along the tree-lined road that cast shimmering and confusing shadows, John was killed when Robert’s car hit him. John’s cell phone was ringing. His daughter was reminding him that they had a date to go shopping for camping gear that evening.

John’s family has no life insurance because John had delayed paying the premium. His wife, as busy with her company as he was with his, didn’t check if he’d paid it. Both their wills needed to be updated; neither could find the time to consult their attorney.

Robert’s family is in shock. Angry, frightened and remorseful, they’re consulting with their attorney about the legal actions they will face as a result of not being insistent enough with Robert.

We can’t see our own life unfolding. But our families will live with the consequences of how well we handle our responsibilities. Are your insurance premiums paid? Are you being too soft on someone who shouldn’t be driving anymore?

Or, as John Lennon puts it, are you busy making other plans?




Stanford Doctor Stresses Need for Advanced Directive

What is an advanced directive?

An advanced directive is a legally sufficient document that gives health care providers and family members information and guidance regarding care of a patient who does not have the capacity to make decisions for him/herself. The patient can fill out this five-part document on his or her own and is not required to see an attorney. Once the document is completed, a patient can either take it to a notary public or have it signed by two witnesses.

Who should have one?

Advanced directives are for all of us. The document speaks for the patient when they can’t speak for themselves. Even though a younger person may not think it is important to have an advanced directive, one of the most common reasons young people visit emergency rooms is trauma, and in such cases individuals can lose the ability to speak for themselves. Furthermore, a single person living alone may have no one to speak for him/her regarding resuscitative measures.

Most people don’t want to contemplate being in that position. How do you convince them that they should consider an advanced directive?

As a physician, I have seen numerous family members come in distraught because their loved one was not in a position to make decisions on his/her own and hadn’t made their wishes known. An advanced directive really helps family members make sure they are taking care of their loved ones.

How is an advanced directive different from a do not resuscitate order?

A do not resuscitate (or DNR) order specifically states that under certain circumstances the patient does not want to have various resuscitating treatments, such as cardio-pulmonary chest compressions or being placed on a ventilator. An advanced directive may contain these same instructions, but may also add specific additional instructions such as: “I do want pain control” or “I do want to be resuscitated, intubated and I do want to have nutrition.”

The advanced directive also goes further, detailing what is to happen if the patient expires — including whether the patient wants to donate organs or have their body go to research.

How would someone get started?

While state law requires certain provisions to appear in your health care directive, there is no single form in use to document your wishes. For information, see  An advanced directive form can be downloaded here: California Probate Code Sample Form, pdf.

Notify your doctor, family and close friends about your end-of-life preferences. Keep a copy of your signed and completed advance health care directive safe and accessible. This will help ensure that your wishes will be known at the critical time and carried out. Give a copy of your form to:

  • The person you appoint as your agent and any alternate designated agents
  • Your physician
  • Your health care providers
  • The health care institution that is providing your care
  • Family members
  • Other responsible person who is likely to be called if there is a medical emergency

A person who has executed an advance health care directive may register information regarding the directive with the Secretary of State. This information is made available upon request to the registrant’s health care provider, public guardian, or legal representative. See

Can you break out the five parts?

The first part names who you want to make the treatment decisions. The second part is the individual instructions you want carried out. The third part asks about organ donation. The fourth and fifth parts are for designating your primary care provider and including your signature, respectively.

Any final thoughts?

I have seen families whose loved one has not taken the opportunity to fill out an advanced directive where one was needed, and the decisions the family members had to make basically tore the family apart. Families are often thrust into situations they don’t expect. An advanced directive avoids much of the strife of very difficult family decisions. As a patient, I would not want my loved ones fighting amongst themselves about how to care for me. With an advanced directive, the medical issues are very clearly outlined.

From an article published in the Be Well @ Stanford News with Dr. Dana Welle, DO, JD, FACOG, FACS, physician risk consultant at Stanford Hospital and Clinics.