Diagnoses like dementia and cancer are hard to receive. While these conditions are often treatable, and it’s possible to live with them for a significant length of time, the unfortunate truth is that no one can live forever. That’s why it’s important to put thought and planning into your end-of-life wishes long before the time comes. The more you do ahead of time, the easier it is for everyone.
You can reduce the strain on your family and loved ones by planning ahead. This is an incredible gift! And Edwards Group is here to help. We even created a free funeral planning resource that you can download. Making decisions around funeral wishes are just one of the ways you can make things easier on yourself and your family. But there are other decisions you should think through ahead of time.
Navigating through the many decisions that need to be made can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. If we approach this topic in advance, many of us will have time to contemplate the very important question: How do I want to die? As you begin to contemplate that question, there are several other important questions that can help guide you.
How can I start a conversation about my end-of-life wishes?
When it comes to handling end-of-life affairs, the people making the decisions have not been adequately prepared for such a significant job. Spouses, children, and caregivers are often left struggling to sort through paperwork and making significant decisions with little guidance. All of this makes the loss of a loved one even more stressful and painful. That’s why it’s important to start having conversations with your family about what your preferences are ahead of time, when possible. While nobody likes to talk about such things, you can ease the burden on your family by starting the conversation now.
Such conversations can be really hard to start, but there are resources out there to guide you through them. The Conversation Project is a public engagement initiative with a goal that is both simple and transformative: to have every person’s wishes for end-of-life care expressed and respected. We encourage you to download their free conversation starter kit today.
It is also a good idea to consider having multiple waves of discussions with family and loved ones. This topic is a very big and weighty issue — one that doesn’t have to be tackled all at once. Having a series of smaller conversations with your friends and family can be extremely helpful.
Who do you want to make decisions if you can’t?
When preparing for the end of life, it’s important to ensure that your loved ones understand your wishes around your care. There are multiple ways to do that: You can establish advance care directives, and you can choose a healthcare Power of Attorney. Read more about the topic of healthcare Powers of Attorney here.
Before you reach the need for end-of-life care, it’s important to talk with your doctors and healthcare providers about the care you might need. What directives would you like in place in the event you are not able to communicate? This used to be called a DNR or “do not resuscitate” order, but now are expanded medical orders that address CPR, level of care desired, feeding tubes, etc. The new version of a DNR is called a POLST (Physician’s Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment).
It’s also important to plan for the unexpected. In the event that there are still medical decisions to be made while you are unable to communicate, it’s important to have a trusted healthcare proxy with an Illinois Statutory Healthcare Power of Attorney. Make sure to select a family member or caregiver whom you trust to make decisions for you. Additonally, make sure to have a conversation with that person about your wishes and get everything in writing. Ensure that they know exactly what to do if you can’t communicate — they’ll be grateful you planned ahead.
If you’d like more information about different types of end-of-life care, make sure to visit the website of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. There, you can find numerous resources to help you plan for your end-of-life medical care. You can also read an article written by us, interviewing a local hospice here.
What other documents do I need to create or have in place?
After you have decided who you want your decision-maker to be, it is essential to put everything in writing. Written instructions can really benefit and bolster the confidence of your decision-maker and give the rest of your friends and family peace during a very difficult time. Read one family’s cautionary tale of how they were torn apart because things weren’t written down.
And these written instructions don’t only apply to medical decisions — it’s also important to plan for the distribution of your assets. Make sure to choose a proxy who will take care of your financial matters — this can be the same as your healthcare POA or you can choose another trusted loved one. Either way, you need to be sure they have financial POA documents authorizing them to make financial decisions on your behalf.
Additionally, it’s essential to have a last will and testament in place to establish your final wishes for the distribution of your assets. Make sure to account for how your assets and personal belongings will pass to your loved ones, and choose an executor who will ensure your wishes are carried out.
Remember, Edwards Group is here to help!
For more information about planning for your end-of-life medical care and financial affairs, check out the numerous resources available to you. We recommend starting with prepareforyourcare.org, which provides simple steps to help you prepare yourself and your loved ones for your passing, as well as caregiver.org, which provides resources for caregivers as they help their loved ones navigate their peaceful passing.
Of course, we’re here to help you with these issues as well! Please keep in mind that none of the above resources replace the Power of Attorney (POA) or Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) forms that are required by the state of Illinois. These resources are just to help you begin your conversation on end-of-life care.
Our philosophy sets us apart from many other estate planning firms. We don’t just care about the documents involved with end-of-life issues, though those are vitally important and need to be done well. We care about the bigger process — you, your family, friends, and those intangibles that make life so meaningful.
As experienced attorneys and Elder Care Advisors dealing with these issues on a daily basis, we can help guide you, facilitate discussions, help you figure out what your wishes are, and help you communicate those things to your friends and family. It’s a plan that says, “I put thought into this decision while I was alive and healthy. This is what I want. Rely on these instructions when needed, knowing the choice was mine.”
Please give us a call us at (217) 726-9200 or contact us if we can help you with this very important step in planning.
To continue reading more about the topic of healthcare directives, check out our blog post HERE.