Preparing for end-of-life situations can be challenging, but it’s important for ensuring the best possible care and support for you and your loved ones. Knowing your options and the resources that are available to you is critical, and though the topic may make some uncomfortable, preparing and planning should you or a loved one experience life-threatening injury or illness can make a huge difference.
Unresolved legal issues can be expensive and difficult to deal with in the wake of a death, and not addressing you or a loved one’s medical preferences can make getting proper care challenging and might even go against what the patient would want. Here are three things to keep in mind when you are preparing to make end-of-life decisions.
What Is Your Care Plan?
While many are familiar with wills, trusts and other financial planning options, legal documents that help plan for healthcare, like living wills or a durable power of attorney, are just as important. Advance directives that cover healthcare and hospital stays allow you or a loved to determine the type and level of care.
A durable medical power of attorney is one of the most common choices and allows a patient to choose someone to represent them when making medical decisions. A spouse or close family member will have your best interests in mind, so that even when you can no longer make medical decisions on your own, you have someone who can advocate on your behalf and decide your treatment plan with healthcare workers.
A living will is another important option when end-of-life planning, and helps dictate what treatment options you want or do not want from doctors and healthcare workers. For some, this might be foregoing measures like CPR or ventilation designed to prolong your life, or it might be the desire that when the time comes you spend it at home. While a doctor will be trying to do whatever it takes to get you better, they are often someone you just met and therefore do not know your values or preferences. Having a living will makes it easy for you to dictate exactly what treatments you want and helps your doctors to better treat you when they have your preferences in mind.
What Is Your Estate Plan?
Financial planning is also very important when considering end-of-life situations. Last will and testaments are some of the most common, but living trusts, designating beneficiaries and financial power of attorney are also advance directives you should consider drafting.
A last will and testament is intended to designate guardians for children or pets and to decide how your assets are distributed. It can also be useful to designate beneficiaries for other assets like life insurance policies or 401(k) accounts. While some may have a good sense of where they would like their assets allocated, putting it in writing well in advance ensures that there is no room for error or disagreement.
A durable financial power of attorney is, just like the medical version, a great way to make sure someone you trust can help manage your assets for you if you are no longer able. If the worst does happen and you can no longer make important decisions for yourself, without a durable financial power of attorney your loved ones will often face an uphill battle with getting court authority and a way to deal with your finances. Someone you trust managing your estate not only gives you the peace of mind your affairs will be well handled, but ensures your finances are not something your family has to worry about in the case of a serious medical event.
How Do You Talk About It?
Many people want to avoid talking or thinking about end-of-life situations but preparing for that eventuality is important. By outlining ahead, you can eliminate the uncertainty of having to make difficult, long-lasting decisions in the moment. Planning ahead also allows you to make better informed and more objective decisions not affected by how you feel in the moment.
Unforeseen circumstances can happen regardless of age or health, and deciding early what steps you want taken for your care goes a long way in relieving the burden on you and your family. Serious medical events can leave you unable to make your own decisions, so drafting some kind of advance directive makes it easy to know the plan of care is something the patient in their right mind would actually want.
In the aftermath of a death or serious illness, the last thing you or a loved one wants to worry about is legal or financial issues that were not addressed previously. By preparing a plan of action should the worst happen, you and your family can have the peace of mind that many of the important decisions are already made. It can be a hard topic of conversation, but even if initially uncomfortable it is always worthwhile to be prepared.
Wings of Hope specializes in hospice and palliative care, and we strive to provide hope and light to families in what is inevitably a dark time.
We are available 24/7 to provide the support and information you need when navigating end-of-life decisions. The decision to pursue hospice or palliative care is never an easy one, and we are here so you don’t have to walk through it alone.