Savage Conversation

For a rockin’ Friday night, my husband and I decided to finally get around to watching the Academy-Award-nominated film “The Savages” with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney, and Philip Bosco. I know! But I what a powerhouse cast and I thought a good, cathartic cry might be just the way to cleanse the mental palate if you will to start the weekend. I was braced for it – the story of a brother and sister caring for their father in his final days.

While the film was intense, believable, and uncomfortable throughout (and the subject matter made us recall Hoffman’s role as a home health aide to a dying elder in Magnolia), one scene in particular jumped out at your humble baby-wearing, blogging, estate-planning attorney: the diner. Did you see it? Do you know exactly what I’m talking about? Does this picture trigger the memory?

[SPOILER ALERT!] Lacking guidance by means of legal medical directives, the elder’s two heretofore estranged adult children stretch the boundaries of awkwardness to broach the subject of his final wishes. Given what I do all day most days, it was impossible to watch this scene without thinking how simply that could have been avoided before the father was suffering from dementia. And as far as addressing the subject, there is a better way!

If you haven’t already had that conversation with your loved ones, there’s no time like the present to gently ask how you can help them feel most comfortable, respected, loved, and secure in their illnesses and final days. What do they really want? You might be very surprised at their answers. So ask yourself – which would be worse, having that difficult conversation, or avoiding it and having to make decisions about which you would likely second-guess yourself and for which you’d possibly feel horribly guilty?


About Danielle G. Van Ess

Danielle G. Van Ess is a Massachusetts (born and raised), experienced estate planning and small business attorney who helps her clients protect and preserve what matters most to them. To learn more, please visit: or call: 781-740-0848