Having your affairs in order important

It's highly plausible that some readers assume I'm extremely well organized and that every file in my house has a home.

If my husband is reading this, he'll be laughing out loud. Anyone who works with me will also have a smirk on their face.

Theoretically, I fully understand the importance of filing and keeping all those critical papers, (like tax receipts), in an orderly fashion. Practically, well, I get bored very quickly and have the reputation of being an excellent starter on projects until something shinier comes into my line of vision.

In fact, I remember waiting impatiently as my Nana would meticulously keep her financial records in perfect balance and deal with every single piece of mail on the day it landed in her mailbox. Looking over her bifocals she would sternly advise me to always have all my important documents in one spot and in order. At 12 years old, I had a hard time coming up with a single document in my life that required filing.

Of course that's all changed now that I'm married and have a child. 0I have many more morbid thoughts than I used to. I worry more about my daughter's future if I became ill or died. Whether you are 42 years old or 98 years young, having 'one's affairs in order' provides yourself and others with peace of mind as well as better care during a health emergency or through a long-term illness.

Are any of you wondering if I 'walk the walk?'  Let's just say it's a 'walk' in progress.

Owning a small business, managing a home, maintaining some semblance of order through an eternal renovation and keeping up with a busy and active seven-year-old causes various delays in my personal record keeping.

It does, however, make me cringe because it was this very issue that made my family's life so stressful and frustrating when Dad died. We literally couldn't find anything — such as key personal identification documents, his will (which never existed!) and passwords for online banking. The amount of time my siblings spent rummaging through drawers looking for vital paperwork was mind-boggling.

The reality is it's not a matter of IF your family will need access to your personal, medical, legal and financial information; it's a matter of WHEN. Ask yourself this question, "If I were no longer able to speak for myself, due to some form of injury, dementia or illness, how easy would it be for other family members to find my important documents?"

You might be asking yourself, "What type of information is most important?" or "Where should I keep all my critical information?"

Join us for our next column as we answer those questions and more. If you are looking for a little motivation in organizing your care planning documents, know that you aren't alone. I'll be right there with you. If you are that someone that is completely organized and efficient with your personal record keeping, I applaud you. Stay with us on the sidelines and cheer us on!

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Solutions. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Thursday.

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