Transitions With Jean Blog

Advance planning will help your family

April 5, 2020

Dear Jean: My older brother has always been a bit of a hermit and more so since he retired. He isn’t exactly a hoarder, but he has a lot of stuff in his house. I am his only family, so I know it will be left to me to clean it all out someday. I have tried everything to get him to work on it himself, but he just wants to be left alone. He says it’s all useful to him. I love my brother, but this keeps me up at night.

Answer: We can’t do much to change another’s way of living. Maybe it is time for you to stop trying. Are you hearing his answer? He’s sleeping just fine at night.

Look at this from another direction; one that gives you both what you need. Ask him to tell you his wishes for the house contents for that inevitable someday. This might be a good time to get at it, if you are both home with little to do. Perhaps you can FaceTime or do it on the phone. That should give you some peace of mind later if you are dealing with it. In that eventuality, remind yourself that he just wanted his items around him when he was living there and didn’t want to deal with them. You don’t have to invest more energy in clearing out the house than he would have. The pressure you are feeling is self-induced.

Let’s take it a step further.

Consider something that can be even more important in the big picture. It isn’t about the stuff, but rather about the life issues. Has he set things up so you have the legal authority to clean out and sell his house when he dies: or will you have to deal with that legal mess first? Perhaps, even more important, do you know if he has made an advance healthcare plan and, does he have a directive on file with his doctor? I’ll bet not.

Picture a day when you need to step in and help him after an accident, an illness or some other event. It happens. What if he had given you a true gift; the power to make timely decisions, the power to be of help to him.

Ask him to tell you exactly what his health wishes are and to give you legal permission to make decisions for him. That way, you can speak for him if he can’t speak for himself. Ask him to make it official. Contact his local hospital or doctor’s office and get the Advance Care Directive form, have him fill it out properly and get it on file with them. If an event arises, you’ll both be set.

National Healthcare Decision Day is April 16. You can find more information and forms at

As they say about this conversation, “It’s always too soon, until it’s too late.”

Tell him that you will be there for him when he needs you, if he will do this for you now. Then, make it happen. By the way, have you done your Will and filed your Advance Care Directive?

Jean Long Manteufel, senior move manager and CEO of Long’s Senior Transitions in Appleton, writes a column on the first Sunday of each month about life changes associated with aging. She can be reached at 920-734-3260 or


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