You know you should think about planning for the end of your life. But who wants to spend time dwelling on their mortality? It’s overwhelming and depressing to contemplate your eventual death. However, creating an end-of-life plan is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself and your loved ones. It gives you control and peace of mind and honours your final wishes. Getting started is more accessible. With some thoughtful reflection, honest conversations, and the help of professionals like doctors or financial advisors if needed, you can craft an end-of-life plan that gives you comfort and allows you to live fully today.
Why You Need an End-of-Life Plan
You never know what life may throw at you, so having an end of life plan gives you peace of mind.
- No one likes thinking about death, but planning ensures your final wishes are respected. Do you want life support removed after a certain period? What kind of funeral do you prefer? These are tough questions, but discussing them with loved ones now avoids confusion and conflict later.
- An end-of-life plan also designates someone to make medical decisions for you if you cannot. Choose a healthcare proxy you trust to follow your requests regarding treatment. Ensure they fully understand what you want and don’t want so they can adequately represent you.
- Finally, an end-of-life plan provides financial guidance. Things like a will, living trust, and life insurance policies provide for your family and ensure your assets are distributed how you intend. Meet with a financial advisor to map out a comprehensive strategy.
While creating an end-of-life plan may seem grim, think of it as an act of love for your family and friends. Organizing your final wishes gives them comfort in an otherwise difficult time.
How to Start the Conversation About End-of-Life Planning
Starting the conversation about end-of-life planning with your loved ones can be difficult, but it’s essential to ensure that your special moments and the stories they represent are acknowledged and passed on to future generations. Here are some tips to help you get started in discussing this important topic with your family members:
- Pick a time when everyone is relaxed and open to chatting over coffee or a nice meal together. Keep things casual and low-pressure.
- Focus on listening to each other’s wishes and concerns. Try to understand different perspectives before arguing your own. Compromise and find common ground.
- Discuss your values and priorities. What’s most important to each of you – independence, comfort, life extension? Matching values can help determine the right path forward.
- Do your research ahead of time. Learn about the options like living wills, advance directives, and POLST forms. That way, you’ll be prepared to share information in a balanced, caring manner.
- Start with broad questions to open the conversation, then get more specific over time. For example, ask, “How do you feel about life support?” before addressing particular interventions. Move at a pace everyone feels okay with.
Having an open, honest dialogue about end-of-life wishes and preparing for potential medical emergencies with your loved ones may not be easy, but the peace of mind it provides in times of medical emergency is invaluable.
Essential Documents to Include in Your End-of-Life Plan
Certain vital documents should be included to ensure your end-of-life plan adequately captures your final wishes.
A living will specify the medical treatments you do and do not want to be performed to prolong your life. It addresses scenarios where you are terminally ill or permanently vegetative and unable to communicate your wishes. Creating a living will gives you peace of mind that your beliefs and values will be honoured.
Health Care Proxy
Appointing a health care proxy, also known as a durable power of attorney for health care, designates someone to make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated. Choose a broker you trust to follow your living will and act in your best interest.
Choosing a Health Care Proxy You Trust
Choose Someone You Trust
Choosing a healthcare proxy is one of the most critical decisions in your end-of-life plan. This person will make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot communicate. Pick someone you trust completely, like a close friend or family member, and have an open conversation with them about your wishes.
When considering candidates, think about people who:
- Know you well and share your values and beliefs.
- Are willing to advocate for what you want, even if it’s complicated.
- Live nearby so they can discuss with your doctors and visit you easily.
- Handle stressful situations calmly and rationally.
- Get along well with other family members and friends.
Once you’ve selected someone to trust with your end-of-life decisions, make sure they fully understand your priorities and are willing to honor your end-of-life wishes to the best of their ability, especially during special moments. Provide clear instructions for the types of medical interventions you do and don’t want, ensuring that your wishes are respected in all medical emergency situations.
Making Your Final Wishes Known: Advance Directives and Living Wills
To ensure your final wishes are honoured, you’ll want to create advance directives like a living will, health care proxy, or power of attorney. These legal documents specify your preferences for medical care and appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf if you’re unable.
A living will details the type of life-prolonging medical care you do or do not want, such as:
- Resuscitation (CPR)
- Artificial respiration
- Artificial nutrition and hydration
Your healthcare proxy or power of attorney designates a trusted friend or family member to communicate your wishes to doctors and make medical decisions for you if you’re unable. Discuss your values and priorities with this person to ensure they honour your desires.
So there you have it – a few simple steps to create an end-of-life plan that gives you peace of mind. While it may not be the most uplifting topic, taking control of your end-of-life wishes is one of the most empowering things you can do. Knowing you have a plan honouring your values and priorities will help reduce stress for you and your loved ones during an already difficult time. Though creating these plans requires facing our mortality, the result is worth it – you’ll gain a sense of calm knowing your final wishes will be respected. Take it one step at a time, be gentle with yourself, and remember why this matters. You’ve got this! Now enjoy this beautiful life of yours.