St. Augustine Woman's Journal - Educational Resource to the Women of St. Johns County Since 2009

"Stroke Protocol" A Plan for Catastrophe!


June 1, 2019 | View PDF

My Grandfather had a stroke when I was about 11 or 12 years old. When we visited him in the nursing home my Grandmother said, “Go ahead and talk to him. He understands what you are saying he just can’t speak or move!” I was horrified that it was possible to be trapped inside your body. I know that is the worst-case scenario for stroke victims and their families but any type of impact that leaves you unable to recall, remember or communicate effectively is disastrous. So that’s why we all need a “Stroke Protocol.”

With that memory of my Grandfather, I met with my cardiologist, along with my wife so she could hear everything that my “selective hearing” would miss. I wanted to be proactive in all things medical! Based on your family history, he informs me that, “Joseph, we know what your Final Event is probably going to be and that’s either a stroke or a heart attack!” I did a double take and informed him that my desire for a good “Final Event” was bending over to pick up the golf ball out of the hole after a long eagle putt and a painless, silent collapse onto the cool grass of the eighteenth green. (It has to be the final hole or my buddies will wait till they finish the round to call the ambulance. It will be “hit the ball, drag Joe, hit the ball drag Joe! They are diehard golfers!) He said, “that sounds nice but let’s see if we can push that day off as far as possible, shall we?”

Since that meeting, I’ve been walking, riding a bike, or going to the gym every day. I’ve lost 14 lbs and dropped my blood pressure by 25 points. I’m sleeping better and cutting down on calories. (I don’t always have to have cheese and chili on my French fries!) But I still thought about his words and one day said to Jane, “Honey we need a “Stroke Protocol” in case I collapse unexpectedly and can’t speak and don’t know who I am!” After her momentary alarm and wondering if I was keeping some additional bad medical news from her, she agreed that it would be a good idea. So here goes:

The first step is to execute Durable Powers of Attorney for each other. Even if I am incompetent, she can act on our behalf without going through a costly and time-consuming Guardianship proceeding in the Court, (thousands of dollars and several months). We also have Health Care Surrogate Designations so she can make decisions about my health care designed to prolong or enhance my life. The flip side of that is the Living Will that addresses artificially prolonging my life. (No iron lung for me, please!)

Step number 2 is to establish a Revocable Living trust with both of us as trustees. After putting our assets into our trust, (including out of state property), if I “stroke out” she is still a trustee and has access to all the “stuff”. They are great asset protection devices and will avoid Probate proceedings for their contents. (Think of cookies in a cookie jar versus cookies sitting on the counter. Trust “cookies” avoid Court the others usually don’t).

Third, make sure you both have an idea of where all the money is invested, any stock certificates that may be laying around or where you have hidden any cash or valuables. Where are the insurance policies, the car titles, the warranty information and the gold coins or stamps you have been collecting. (Once my dear Father decided to bury some jewelry, silver and gold, (pirate-like), under the bricks in the outdoor shed. He forgot that saltwater intrusion could occur and some of his buried treasure was eaten up!) I use a safe and we BOTH know the combination.

Fourth, know the law or have your attorney on speed dial. Remember spouses are not liable for the separate debts of the other so my wife knows not to get too worried about paying my separately issued credit cards or my “Just-for-Balding Men Miracle Hair Products subscription”.

Finally, talk about your burial plans. Who do you want to sing at your funeral, if you have one, or where do you want your ashes scattered? The fort, the beach, the Walmart parking lot? Do you want cake or pie at the wake or cupcakes? Bar-B-Q or finger sandwiches? Open Bar or just beer and wine?

Anyway, you get my point. With a little bit of preparation, you take a lot of fear out of the future and God knows life can be scary enough without the shock of losing your spouse unprepared. Do it because you love each other, reason enough.

Joe Boles

Joseph L. Boles, Jr. moved to St. Augustine with his parents in 1967. A native of North Carolina, he attended the University of Florida after graduating from St. Augustine High School in 1970. He initially obtained a Bachelor of Design and Advertising Design from the University of Florida, and also obtained his law degree from the University of Florida College of Law. He was admitted to practice in the fall of 1984 and his areas of interest are Elder law, asset protection, estates and trusts. He is married to Jane Reynolds and they have 7 children between them: Hayley, Molly, and Kirby Catherine Boles and Kara, Willie, Emily and Bridey Masson. His office is located on the corner of Riberia and Saragossa Streets in St. Augustine. The office phone number is 904-824-4278.


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