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03   Apr

Dealing with Uncertain Times - Coronavirus / COVID-19

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve decided to postpone my discussion on “My Loved One Wants to Stay at Home, but I’m Not Sure They Should” at this time. The title of that series sort of presents us with a different quandary right now doesn’t it? State governments all over the country are ordering residents to Stay Home by all means possible to allow our health care system time to get this pandemic under control. So, we, a society very uncomfortable with the idea of slowing down, are forced to do exactly that. You’d think this may be the perfect time for me to write a blog, but I’m finding it to be the exact opposite. Not due to a lack of opportunity. For a lot of us, if there’s one thing we have more of right now it’s time, right? In light of this pandemic, I’ve struggled with finding constructive things to say. After all, I’m not a nurse or a doctor or a scientist or a researcher or an engineer or a police officer or a firefighter or a paramedic or a psychiatrist or a counselor or any of the many other frontline workers who are working their butts off to keep the rest of us safe and healthy. I don’t have any special insight to offer in this moment. At best, I can only offer my interpretation of what I’ve heard and observed on TV and from conversations with friends and family in the health care industry, which I think is true for most of us.

So how do we deal with these uncertain times? I keep trying to remind myself not to get too caught up in the news and discussion about this virus, but that is really really difficult when it presents such a real threat to each of us and our loved ones. Perhaps one of the biggest if not the biggest problem I’m having in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic is that I have nothing to distract me from it. Being the sports nerd that I am, the complete shutdown of all professional sports leagues has opened up a lot of my thought time. There are no distractions like this left for many of us. Sure, I can stream movies and TV shows day and night, but even those only offer a temporary respite from reality. And the odd thing for me is, even if sports were still being played and broadcast, I just don’t think they’d be the same right now. It wouldn’t feel right with the difficulties our world is currently facing.

One thing I keep grasping for in all of this is perspective. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated the gathering of human beings as much as I do now. Whether it be a work event, a social event, a family event or even simply running some errands, I’ve never appreciated the opportunity to be around other people as much as I do now. I think we can all find things to be grateful for under these circumstances. Having a 2-year-old son and a pregnant wife, I am extremely grateful for the time I get to spend with them every day (of course, my wife might feel differently about the time she has to spend with me). I think gratitude can be a powerful tool at a time like this. We’re all dealing in unfamiliar territory, but if we can find things to be grateful for in the present, they can help give us the patience we need to endure this crisis. And then when we make it out of this, we will all be better, stronger individuals because of it.

I do have a few additional, hopefully useful, tidbits of information I’d like to share. While it is vitally important for all of us to remain hopeful and positive with all the negativity surrounding us, it’s also important to be realistic. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has produced a seemingly endless supply of sobering stories that highlight the importance of listening to advice from medical professionals and experts as well as the importance of being more prepared for the future.

Here in Michigan, many of us have heard about the 25-year-old, physically fit, Western Michigan University football player that passed away this past week as a result of the virus.

Audra (my boss, owner of our firm) has a 25-year-old son who was a student at Western Michigan University. Unfortunately, many of his friends, and they’re not alone among their age group, aren’t giving the dangers of COVID-19 much thought. Young people are not immune to the effects of this virus and can and will continue to get sick unless and until they start heeding the advice and warnings of medical professionals, infectious disease experts and, perhaps most importantly, their parents. The inverse of this is also true, though. As an ‘80s millennial (who doesn’t really feel that people born in the ‘80s belong in the millennial category, perhaps a topic for another time) I am wrestling with my parents, and I notice my friends having these same issues with their parents as well, who think this virus isn’t going to affect them and that they can go about their daily lives in similar fashion to how they always have.

Both personally and as estate planning attorneys, we are horrified by the continued stories of COVID-19 related medical emergencies that we are hearing about.  We have clients, family members, friends and acquaintances who are battling this virus. We have clients whose children can’t visit them in the care facility they reside in right now and whose children are calling the hospitals, rehab facilities and assisted livings for updated information on their parents because they can’t be there in person. It’s important to remember that a Designation of Patient Advocate (DPA)/Medical Power of Attorney allows for you to be a point of contact as well as the decision maker in all medical emergencies. Not just in times like this, but generally, a DPA is the most important legal document that you will execute.  It designates who will make decisions for us or our loved ones if we fall ill, are in an accident or meet some other fate.  Now is a good time to review your documents for accuracy and, if you don’t have any documents, to consider having them drafted. I’m in the same boat as a lot of you. My wife and I still don’t even have our estate planning documents in place (her fault, not mine, I swear…just don’t tell her I said that!). And we have young kids! All the more reason to get these documents in place, I know. Naturally, this experience has reminded me I need to get these documents completed for our family as soon as possible. (DUH, right? I do this for a living and I don’t already know that?!) So, if you are like me and you or a loved one’s DPA hasn’t been updated or you don’t have one at all now would be a great time to get these documents in place.

Our office continues to take calls and our team is doing as much work as we can remotely. We will be also be taking some time over these next few weeks to check in with our clients and their families. Things may be a bit different right now, but we are still here to address any concerns you have for yourselves and your loved ones.

On a final note, we are blessed with technology that allows us to communicate and stay in touch with each other in many different ways, so let’s try to take advantage of that right now. And hopefully, if (IF) this Michigan weather cooperates, all of us will be able to spend a bit more time outdoors in the coming weeks. Our mental and emotional health are as important as our physical health, so I hope we are all mindful of these and other blessings in our lives and that they add up to a better attitude for each of us in the face of this pandemic. We sincerely hope and pray you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy during these trying times. Please do not hesitate to call or email us with your questions. May God bless and protect you and your families.