Who knows your final wishes?

I’ve often said that having a stroke does force you into thinking about several things you would rather not think about. The first of them is financial planning - making sure your family (and the mortgage company) are catered for in the event of you becoming incapacitated, unable to work, paralysed, or God forbid, dead.

I speak to a lot of financial experts who say that planning for the-life-changing-event-that-will-never-happen-to-me is one of those things that people shove into a distant corner of their brain, only bringing it out when said event happens to a friend or family member. In the meantime, TV packages, pet insurance and so on are just accepted as a routine part of the monthly outgoings. But health insurance is ‘too expensive’ or “I won’t need it.”

The other thing that people would rather not talk about is planning for death. I survived my stroke and plenty of others do but, according to the latest statistics from the Stroke Association, stroke is the fourth-biggest killer in the United Kingdom. It usually strikes without warning, turning peoples’ lives upside-down in an instant. But what if you haven’t made plans for death?

Nearly 60% of Britons haven’t made a will (Mrs Warrior and I aren’t among that 60%) and this doesn’t just lead to financial uncertainty after death. Do you want to be buried or cremated? Put in a plastic bag and your ashes thrown in the river? Buried in a churchyard? Cremated and your ashes scattered in a particular spot? What music do you want played at a ceremony? Do you want a ceremony at all? Do you want to be resuscitated if you become unconscious? Have you discussed some or any of this with your family, or a close friend, or anyone?

If you haven’t made your wishes clear, your family will not know what you want and then their wishes, not yours, will prevail. And down that road lies family arguments, conflict at the graveside or in the church, the kind of drama which soap-opera scriptwriters can probably draft in their sleep. And who wants that? It might draw the audiences on EastEnders, but is that really how you want to leave this world? And don’t tell me that only happens on television, because I know vicars who have seen it happen many times at funerals where they have officiated.

I mention all this because on Friday, I heard Ian Leech, Community Engagement Manager at St Giles Hospice, near Lichfield, give a fascinating talk about care planning which encourages people to put their wishes down in writing. Not just about what they want done with their body after death, but who they would want making decisions about their future if they became incapacitated, where they would want treating if they became incapacitated and so on. As Ian put it: “the more detail you are able to provide, the more likely it is that you will receive the care you would like to receive.”

It strikes me as astonishing that more people don’t talk about this, because I think having our wishes observed as we leave this world should be one of the most important things we do. I say that because, had I not survived my disagreement with a bus in December 2013, Mrs Warrior would have known none of this and wouldnt have known where to begin finding out.

Now, she knows all the important details and after hearing Ian’s talk, I’ll be adding some more.

As part of a pilot scheme operated by the South Staffordshire Action Alliance, people living in South and East Staffordshire will be able to fill in their care plan online at www.MyWishes.co.uk. The internet-averse can obtain paper copies. And as I say about everything I do, if this post has scared you into action, or even scared you into thinking about action, it’s been worth it.