In the end-of-life sector, you come across a whole host of professionals. Everything from palliative care doctors that ease the side effects of aggressive medical treatments to social workers who ensure access to adequate long-term care resources to funeral directors that deal with burials and memorial ceremonies.
All of these professionals tackle very different roles, and come from very different backgrounds. In spite of that, they all agree on one thing: better end-of-life conversations would save a ton of strife and hardship for families.
And yet, it’s something so few of us do. Why? In part because it’s an uncomfortable topic. And in part because we don’t know where to start. So let’s start breaking down those barriers. Here’s 3-step process for how to get those end-of-life conversations going.
Research Your End-of-Life Wishes
It’s easy enough for us to say “figure out what you want.” It’s another thing to actually know what makes sense for you, your background, your values and your family. That’s why researching end-of-life decisions is so critical. For instance, what medical care do you (or don’t you) want? What’s the best way to pass your assets or wealth on to your family members or loved ones? Who will be the guardian for your children? Or, do you want a cremation or a burial?
PlanBeyond is one resource you can turn to tackle all of these different topics. If you’re looking to dive into specifics, checkout FuneralWise for everything you need to know about funerals, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Foundation for end-of-life healthcare questions, and LegalZoom for basic information on wills and trusts.
And keep in mind, this is an area where you don't want to be penny wise and pound foolish. Don’t hesitate to talk to an estate planning lawyer, funeral director, or financial advisor to sort all of this out.
Plan Your Conversation Out
Once you know where you stand on end-of-life topics, it’s critical that you actually sit down and talk to your family members and loved ones about your end-of-life wishes.
One great resource to get started is The Conversation Project, which provides a conversation starter kit to help you plan the conversation out. It covers everything from what concerns you have that you know you need to cover, who you want involved in the conversation and how to break the ice to get the conversation started.
Another great resource is Consider the Conversation, a group that captured the end-of-life perspectives of patients, family members, doctors and many more to capture the struggles and nuances of having end-of-life discussions. Their videos can show you how other have broached the subject, and their website includes a host of resources to get started.
Record Your End of Life Wishes
Once you’ve figured out what your wishes are and shared those wishes with your family and loved ones, it’s time to keep a record of them. You’ll definitely want to create a living will, a formal document that captures what medical care you do, or don’t want, if you’re too incapacitated to give directions to your medical team. Relatedly, create a medical power of attorney for healthcare so that someone can speak for your if you’re too ill to do it yourself. And of course, don’t forget to create a last will and name an estate executor to carry our you final wishes.
Beyond some of the nitty gritty details of end-of-life planning, you may also want to leave behind messages for your family members. You can write them notes so that they have something to always have from you. Or, go the digital route and try SafeBeyond so that your family and loved ones can always see your face and hear your voice, even if you’ve long since passed away.
About the Author: Laura Troyani is the Founder and Editor of PlanBeyond, a one-stop shop for getting your end of life planning in order. Whether it’s exploring last wills, hospice care, estate taxes or anything in between, PlanBeyond will quickly answer all your questions so you can plan your final wishes.