Most people fear thinking about end-of-life issues. Elder Latinos are no exception. Most of us do not think about how we would like to be remembered by our family and future generations. But you can be in control of those memories. It is sometimes said “Latinos don’t fear dying; they fear leaving family behind”.

What can you leave behind for your family? Memories of kindness . . . caring . . . helping others . . . being available to just listen . . . being part of the family! All of these attributes are the legacy you can share with your family now and in the future.

Leaving a legacy is more than leaving money to a charitable cause. Leaving a legacy is sharing your recipes, doing things with other people, providing excitement to a relationship. It might be writing your memoirs. It might be organizing family albums with photos and short stories about what is happening in those photos. It might be making a video. It might be sharing your book collection. It might be leaving a letter for all your grandchildren. It might be sharing your wisdom and knowledge. These actions create relationships for now and the future.

Family relationships are the most important part of living for many Latinos. Relationships provide positive self-concept. They create a sense of self-worth. They contribute to an identity. They make us who we are.

End-of-life planning contributes to positive relationships. It is expressing how you want to live your life. It is sharing your values and beliefs about such things as a) If I am diagnosed with cancer, what type of treatment do I want to receive? b) Do I want a feeding tube? c) If I can no longer live with family due to high care needs, what kind of care do I want to receive?

Expressing your desires to family, friends and the medical personnel who will be taking care of you is important if you want these wishes to be honored and respected. The most frequently used tool to have your medical needs met is to complete a medical power of attorney and share it with everyone who may be asked about your wishes in the future. Think of sharing this information as a “way to help those close to you to carry out your wishes”.

Sharing now for the future helps your spouse, siblings, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews, cousins, and friends determine your legacy for the future. THE BIG QUESTION - What legacy will you leave for your family?

The Colorado Gerontological Society is launching a program to work with Latino elders on planning for the later years in 2017. You can help us get it right! Call 303-333-3482 to become involved in this great opportunity!

By Eileen Doherty, MS, Executive Director

Colorado Gerontological Society