by T. Christian Rollins, MBA, CFRE, Chief Development Officer, Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice Your will…
During the 1950s and ’60s, James took hundreds of photos of his wife and five children. And through those busy years, the precious pictures lay in random drawers and boxes. After James retired, he spent months creating thick photo albums for each family member – even including their birth certificates and other special mementos.
“It was very important to him to be able to leave these albums to his family,” said James’s son, Jim Jr. “It also gave him a chance to revisit happy times from his past, and reflect on what was most important to him.”
Like James, many people want to leave a meaningful legacy behind – such as a scrapbook, letter, or keepsake — as well as less tangible things, like happy memories and valuable life lessons.
Near the end of life, leaving a legacy can help the person cope with the idea of their death, and bring peace to them and their loved ones.
Even people with no surviving family or close friends – or those who don’t care if they’re remembered – may find meaning by creating a legacy for themselves as they live their life.
“Your legacy is really about focusing on what matters most to you,” says Kim Rumaker, LCSW, Samaritan manager of social work and spiritual support. “If you’re on hospice care, ask your hospice team to help you create the kind of legacy you desire.”
A legacy can be defined as any or all of the following:
> Something a person leaves behind to be remembered by.
> Something that provides comfort by ensuring the person will be remembered after they die.
> The impact a person makes during their life and/or after their death.
The act of creating a legacy can provide many benefits to you and your loved ones.
In fact, reminiscing with loved ones – which is often part of the legacy process – can provide mental-health benefits for both older adults and their family caregivers. It can relieve stress, encourage social interaction, and reduce depression symptoms, for instance.
In addition, leaving a legacy can allow you to:
For your loved ones, your legacy can also help them:
A living will is different from a legacy, but they can complement each other.
A living will is a person’s written statement of the type of medical care they want and do not want, if they become unable to communicate.
Some living wills – such as the popular Five Wishes – also include the individual’s personal and spiritual instructions. For instance, Five Wishes asks how you want people to treat you, and what you want your loved ones to know.
Creating either a living will or a legacy will naturally cause you to think about similar issues, and help you make decisions and choose goals that are right for you.
You may feel you don’t have the time or energy to work on a legacy project, especially if you are seriously ill. However, legacy work can be done in small amounts of time, spread over days or weeks. You can also ask your loved ones and hospice team to help you. In fact, another benefit of leaving a legacy is that it can provide opportunities to spend meaningful time with family and friends.
Tip for Leaving a Legacy: Timing is Everything
Don’t put off creating a legacy, especially if you have a serious illness or are on hospice care.
Research shows that people who wait too long often become too ill to work on their legacy.
Here are some common types of legacy projects:
You can include almost anything in your legacy project, but here are some ideas to get you started:
Other ways of leaving a legacy include giving important objects to loved ones, or making a donation to a worthy cause. Here are more legacy ideas:
“Leaving a legacy is about connecting with those you love – while you’re living – as much as it’s about leaving something behind,” says Kim Rumaker.
If you live in South Jersey and have questions about leaving a legacy or hospice care,
please call Samaritan at (800) 229-8183.