End of Life Planning is Important
Dealing with the death of a loved one is one of the greatest challenges of life. If you have to manage their affairs, the difficulty increases because of
- the emotional upset you will experience, and
- whether you have any guidance provided by any End-of-Life planning they had done.
In this article, I will discuss why End-of-Life planning is important for all of us to do and what basic End of Life planning everyone should consider doing as a very minimum and why.
End of Life Planning
Being proactive about your End of Life Planning is important. Thinking and deciding about your end of life before you’re in a medical crisis allows you to think logically about what your choices could be.
A crucial part of this planning should cover what you would want your loved ones to do if you became seriously ill or incapacitated. This is important if you could not communicate your wishes about what medical intervention you would or may not wish to receive. As a result of the medical treatment, you receive can have a direct effect on the quality of your life from that time onwards.
The best time to get everything in order is today.
You should live your life knowing that you have made your wishes clear for;
- the lifesaving medical intervention you would want, and in what circumstances, you wouldn’t want it. Such as if the medical intervention meant you would be bedridden, and your quality of life would be non-existent.
- what you would want to happen with your assets and possessions after your death.
End of Life Planning and Your Family
Leaving no instructions for your family is one of the most selfish things you can do for your loved ones.
If you make no End-of-Life decisions and they are left up to your loved ones with no guidance, it will cause so much distress to your family members. This distress and doubt arise when your surviving family isn’t sure if they are either making the right choices or it would be what you would have wanted. The reality for many families is that if a loved one is in a coma or has died the questions that need to be answered can be overwhelming for them.
The questions just seem to continue to increase during the initial period when they are in a state of shock. It makes them feel worse when they realise how unprepared they are for this situation that they are confronted with because of a lack of knowledge of what your wishes would have been!
The questions loved ones often face and are uncertain about include:
- Would you have wanted medical intervention to save your life regardless of the outcome? Even if you would be bed bound for the rest of your life?
- Had you pre-paid for a funeral plot or a funeral fund?
- What was your preference burial or cremation?
- Was there any specific funeral requests?
- Did you have a current Will and where would it be kept?
- Who was the executor of the estate?
- Had you recorded any of your wishes or left a Legacy Letter or Ethical Will?
At this stage, many of your family will often ask in frustration this one question
Why didn’t you make any end of life plans?
Quickly followed with the comment
“It certainly would have been helpful to know what they would have wanted.”
Assembling and having all your most important information together with your essential documents in one area will reduce the burden and ease the stress on your surviving family members.
So, you have decided you will get your affairs in order or as we sometimes refer to it as estate planning.
When you think of starting your estate planning, you will appreciate the many areas you need to consider and must make decisions about including:
- your financial to social media accounts, various insurance policies ranging from life to home insurance,
- legal documents including Wills, Power of Attorney and Advance Care Directives,
- other types of important documents such as birth certificates, wedding certificates,
- general information relating to a household including contact information for utilities, and
- friends contact information
Estate planning allows you to feel confident knowing that what you wish to happen with your property and possessions will occur. When it concerns what you want your loved ones to receive having a Will is essential.
Otherwise, as happens with many family’s poor or no instructions often will lead to arguments and disputes. Family disputes can deteriorate into long term family feuds. They are often bitter and become expensive legal battles over every aspect of your estate.
These can range from what casket you would want to who should receive that particular statue or dinner set that you had in your living room.
What were their End of Life wishes
A few years ago, a tragic set of events occurred which prompted me to think about End of Life planning. As with most things in life, it’s not until you have experienced the death of a family member or close friend you realise the importance of doing something.
In my case, it was the importance of planning for your own death. Making those decisions that needed to be made before a tragic event and the benefit that such planning would have upon the surviving family members.
After experiencing the slow and agonising death of my dear father-in-law in palliative care the whole experience made me feel helpless and alone. I soon realised that I did not know his last wishes. I muddled through the best way I could, deciding on what to do next and hopefully, he would be happy with the choices I had made to honour his memory.
Not long after my father-in-law’s passing my mother-in-law suddenly died on her front lawn collecting the morning newspaper. Here we were again, not knowing her End of Life wishes.
About a month later…… it hit me I was experiencing guilt….. yes guilt, I was feeling guilty. Did I do the right thing? Not knowing what their last wishes were and whether I did what they would have wanted me to do!
The lack of planning and conversations caused the unfortunate family conflict that you only read about and you never think it would happen in your family!
The death of my in-laws made me appreciate the need to pre-plan my end-of-life wishes as we pre-plan most other things in our lives. If you do not plan and document your End-of-Life wishes, you will burden your family with making the often heart wrenching medical decisions. Such as whether they should turn off your life support systems or donate your organs.
End of Life
My father-in-law like many other people felt very uncomfortable whenever I tried talking to him about death and dying. We all have different relationships with death, shaped by several factors including our:
- religious beliefs,
- cultural background,
- personal experiences,
- family history and
- current life circumstances
The simple fact is that we’re all going to die. Most of us will experience losing loved ones and people we care about during our lifetime which will have a significant impact on our lives.
It forced me to ask myself, does my immediate family know;
- what medical care I would wish for if I become incapacitated?
- what style of funeral or memorial service I wanted,
- what my preference is? buried or cremated, and
- where I want to be buried or my ashes scattered?
Though it might be uncomfortable and upsetting, it’s important to have End-of-Life Conversations with your family. It will help you prepare both emotionally and practically for your end of life including the medical care and intervention that you’d want.
Advance Care Planning
It may sound daunting, but it’s essential if you want to have a say in this important and inevitable stage of your life. Your decisions on your future health should be formalised in several documents.
Advance Care Planning is the process that allows you to make plans and give directions about your medical choices to healthcare professionals if you cannot do so.
Just consider the outcome if you lose the ability to communicate due to being incapacitated because of a:
- dementia (e.g., Alzheimer’s)
without sorting out your planned wishes.
Advance Care Directives or Medical Directives are often referred to as a Living Will. This is a legal document in which you specify what actions should be undertaken for your health care if you can no longer decide or communicate your wishes yourself. You can always change your preferences if your circumstances or views change.
I always suggest that it’s best to plan when you’re in good health, as you won’t be able to do this planning after your health has deteriorated.
End of Life Conversation
Often, it’s an experience of having a family member or friend who has been diagnosed with either a
- terminal illness or
- has died
for us to acknowledge the need to reflect upon our own lives.
This only occurs after the period of disbelief and sorrow has subsided. For some of us, these events will cause us to question and ponder our own situation. The journey begins once you decide to change something in your life. For instance, deciding on making End of Life plans.
The refusal of my in-laws to have an End of Life conversation on what they wanted at the end, caused me added stress and grief. They did not want to think about their End of Life or even wanted to have an End-of-Life conversation.
Not knowing the most fundamental aspects, such as did they have:
- a pre-paid funeral fund? or
- what type of memorial service did they want?
This doubt contributed to me feeling even more emotional. As, if my decisions concerning the funeral would be in line with what they had wanted! So, after what has unfolded in the last few years, I asked myself,
“What can I do to assist other people in
starting an End of Life planning conversation,
no matter how hard it is to do”.
Many other people have experienced a similar situation because of not having an End of Life conversation with your loved ones.
Conversations about end of life plans are essential
You may wish to start an End-of-Life plan but you will be confronted with a range of excuses to avoid the End of Life planning.
So I decided to help others, through information on how to encourage End-of-Life planning in your family avoiding the stress and guilt of trying to work out what to do after the death of a loved one.
Starting with actionable checklists to reflect on what you’ll need to think about before you have End of Life conversations with your loved ones and how best to approach this subject.
Learn more on how to avoid the most common End of Life Planning mistakes by referring to our detailed article on the “36 End of Life planning mistakes you need to know about.” The reality of creating an effective end-of-life plan shouldn’t be difficult, expensive or time-consuming.
Find out more on how to Start an End Of Life conversation. It will give practical and helpful steps on how to begin the process today, as you’ll need it one day.