Brace yourself.

It’s a depressing subject and this article isn’t going to be light and fluffy. We’re talking about mapping out your end of life care plan.

For the good of everyone involved, you need to come up with a plan for the final stage of your life. It’ll save you money, heartache, and ensure you’re as comfortable as possible when the time comes.

We all must face the inevitable squarely to help ourselves as well as our families. It’s not an easy subject, but it’s best for everyone that we have a plan in place.

What Is an End of Life Care Plan?

When you or a loved one are approaching your final years, months, or days, it’s not easy. It can drain resources, emotions, and people’s spirits.

The goal of an end of life care plan is to help someone live as well as possible until their time has come — and we never know when that time will be, which is really the point. The idea is that an end of life care plan gives a person control and their family is comforted in knowing they’re carrying out their loved one’s wishes.

Almost 90% of people on Medicare have an idea or a want for their end of life care, but two-thirds of them never get it. Without an end of life care plan, people live longer than their resources allow or that they’d want to — if they knew what was going on.

What Does an End of Life Care Plan Entail?

Your end of life care plan can include a multitude of factors. Where do you want to carry out your final days? Will you be in a home or hospital? In a nursing home?

Do you want medical care in your last days or a hospice-like service? Would you like to be surrounded by friends and family or avoid them seeing you in your last stages?

That’s all up to you. There isn’t one correct end of life plan. It’s an emotional time for all involved that poses questions you haven’t thought about before.

Questions to Ask

On that note, let’s talk about some end of life care planning questions you can ask yourself and your loved ones. It’s considerate to bring loved ones into the discussion, but don’t let their voices override your own.

You’re planning your own final days, as difficult as that is, yet you must not feel pressured to bend to the wishes of others.

When Will Your End of Life Care Begin?

This is different for everyone. One woman wrote in her plan that when the cost of her medication becomes prohibitive long term, she’d like to initiate her end of life care plan.

Another wrote they wished to start care when their treatment side effects worsen their ability to live a tolerable yet peaceful existence.

It’s all up to the individual.

If you have a degenerative disease or are chronically ill, you may want to ask your doctor what to expect and how the future will play out. What signs and symptoms do they foresee over time. What can you do to live a life you want to live.

You can write how you want to address each phase that your doctor foresees in your future.

Be sure to provide explicit instructions on what to do if you’re unable to make decisions, medical or otherwise, for yourself. Who can give the go-ahead for your plan to take effect? Do they know what conditions you require to put your plan in motion?

It’s not a straight-forward discussion, but it’s one you need to have with your family and, possibly, friends.

Who Will Provide Care?

Once you have your triggers and timing laid out, it’s time to think about who will provide care and look after your well-being. Sometimes who becomes the caregiver is determined by where you are living — whether it is in your own home, in a hospice care facility, with a family or friend, in a hospital, or in a retirement or nursing home.

If you’re in a nursing home, nurses will attend to you like they have before, but what if you’d like to transition to death at home?

Will you hire a licensed caregiver? Will family members take turns providing care? Your family is a great, loving, and free resource, but caregiving is time intensive, and people have competing responsibilities, including building toward their own aspirations and dreams.

If you need to depend on family, have them share the responsibility of your care; do not put all the responsibility on one person. The physical and emotional toll can be huge and exhausting. Sharing care giving helps everyone and allows time to re-energize and gain sense of self and perspective. Caregivers need breaks, as much as they love you.

What About Pain?

If you have illness or symptoms that cause you pain, how do you want it to be handled?

If you’re not taking treatment anymore, you may want to consider palliative care. Palliative care assures that you are as comfortable as possible and reduces your symptoms without medication or treatment. Medical or recreational marijuana or over-the-counter painkillers may become part of this course of action. There are ways to have palliative care without using substances.

Ask your care providers what their strategies for pain management are. If their strategies make you uncomfortable or doubtful, find a different caretaker or bring in outside help.

Dealing with Emotions

When you’re planning your end of life care, it can bring up a lot of emotions. That is to be expected and is completely normal because we are mere mortals, and living forever was never an expectation of the human experience.

If you have the means, it may be helpful to seek guidance from a grief counselor while you’re working through the end of life planning process.

What about your loved ones? Try to find the means to provide for your loved one’s emotional, physical, and financial well being. Ask what they need well ahead of time, if at all possible, so that the grieving is not made worse by poor planning

Creating Your End of Life Care Plan

First of all, take a deep breath. This is an uncomfortable and sometimes painful process. However, it’s far more uncomfortable and painful when there is no plan in place — for everyone involved.

Have a heart-to-heart talk with your loved ones about what you want your end of life to be like and how life without you will be. The more you talk about it as a family and as close friends, the more you can help each other celebrate and recognize how everyone’s lives are intertwined and have meaning and purpose.

Get your lawyer involved so they can incorporate your end of life plan with your will or estate plan.

Start identifying those care giving service providers that will be instrumental in effectively carrying out your end of life plan. Ask the important questions so you can plan and do your due diligence proactively instead of reactively.

Questions? Email us and we’ll be do our best to help as you plan the last phase of life.