Many people don’t plan for end-of-life care because they don’t want to think about dying. But planning ahead for your end-of-life care gives you time to think about your wishes, and avoids the stress of making decisions during a health crisis or emergency. Learn how you can plan end-of-life care for yourself today by reading on.
What Are Your Wishes?
Have you thought about your wishes for end-of-life care? 90% of people believe it’s important to talk with loved ones about end-of-life wishes but only 27% have had the conversation. It’s not easy to think about a time when you won’t be there for your loved ones, but planning ahead can relieve your loved ones of a lot of stress. Starting the conversation early with your family allows you to make difficult decisions about your care and treatment, rather than burden your family with those decisions.
No matter how prepared you are to talk about end-of-life plans, it’s never going to be an easy conversation. This conversation may be more of a series of conversations overtime, especially if your loved ones are initially resistant to talking about the subject. Rushing the conversation could make things even more difficult, but timing is important if you foresee a time when you may not be able to make decisions on your own.
Key questions to ask yourself about end-of-life wishes include:
●What kind of care you would like to receive at end-of-life?
●Where would you like to receive care?
●What abilities would you like to retain while receiving treatment?
●How involved would you like your family to be?
●Who will make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you can’t make them yourself?
●Would you like to have information about your health kept private?
Legal Documents You Need
If you’re like most people, you probably already have a standard will and testament that outlines what happens to your estate when you die. But have you thought about who would make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you’re still living but unable to represent yourself? A standard will is just one of the important legal documents you should have when planning for end-of-life. Make sure you understand, and prepare when necessary, these four essential legal documents:
●Standard will and testament
●Advanced directive (also known as a living will)
●Power of attorney
●Do not resuscitate order
An advance directive lets you designate a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care--the person you assign to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to make them on your own. The durable power of attorney for health care is not to be confused with a financial power of attorney--who is the person you assign to make financial decisions on your behalf. An instruction directive is another component of an advanced directive that outlines what type of healthcare and medical treatment you do or do not wish to receive (e.g. do you want certain life sustaining measure to be taken). Without an advance directive, you’re at risk of family members disagreeing on the medical treatment you’ll receive and may even receive treatment you don’t want. Each state has different laws on how it recognizes advanced directives, so we recommend consulting an attorney to help you draft the document.
A do not resuscitate order (DNR) is a medical order that instructs health care providers that you do not want CPR if you stop breathing or your heart stops beating. By deciding if you want a DNR or not, you can choose before an emergency whether you want CPR. A DNR does not give instructions on any other medical treatments like pain medicine, or nutrition which would be outlined in an advanced directive.
Understanding Hospice Care
Hospice is a scary word to many people and is underutilized in the US. Only 20 - 25% of people who die in the US use hospice services but research shows that hospice can greatly improve the quality of a person’s end-of-life. The goal of hospice is to maximize the comfort of a person with a terminal illness by reducing pain and addressing his or her emotional, physical and spiritual needs. Hospice gives individuals a holistic care team that includes: a primary care physician, nurses, social workers, nursing assistants, and pastoral counselors.
Hospice care is covered under Medicare, and covered by most private health insurance. You’re eligible for hospice care if you have a life expectancy of six months or less, as determined by your physician. Many people don’t take advantage of hospice and only use hospice care for 22 days. Hospice provides families with such wonderful support and resources. It’s not something to be scared of, but something that will improve the quality of your end-of-life and greatly improve your comfort.
Coping with Death
How can we come to terms with our eventual death? Stress and anxiety about not being there for your loved ones can take a toll on your physical and mental health. It’s hard to accept that you will miss out on milestone events in your family’s life. Don’t be afraid to talk with your loved ones about your fears and reach out to friends for comfort and support. While you may miss important events in the future, you can still send a message to the people who are important to you with a tool like SafeBeyond. A kind of emotional insurance, SafeBeyond lets you send messages at predetermined dates like a child’s 18th birthday or high school graduation. You’re still part of your loved one’s lives and present with them on those special days. SafeBeyond can give you peace of mind that you’ll be there for your family and friends, even if it’s not in the physical sense.
Hiring a Caregiver
At some point in your end-of-life journey, it may be time to get help from a professional caregiver. Hiring a caregiver doesn’t have to mean losing your independence. In fact, it means the very opposite--a caregiver can help you do things you aren’t able to do as well for yourself anymore and relieve your family members from the stress of being a primary caregiver. Professional caregivers give emotional and physical support--a person who’s there to listen, help you with your daily routine and make life easier for you.
You can hire a caregiver using a home health care agency or by contacting one directly through services like eCaregivers. The key to finding your long-term caregiver is finding someone who not only has the skills you need, but the personality that blends well with your family. Caregivers often work part-time, full-time or live-in depending on your needs. If you have
●Make it a priority to talk with your family about your end-of-life wishes
●Find out what legal documents you need to protect yourself and family
●Educate yourself on end-of-life care options and don’t fear hospice
●Consider using a digital inheritance website for emotional insurance to help family cope with loss
●Understand the benefits of a caregiver for emotional and physical support
About the Author: Rachel Kenselaar is the co-founder of eCaregivers.com. She has worked in home health care for several years and her mission is to help individuals and their families find affordable long-term care.