10 Essential Steps to Creating an End-of-Life Plan

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Episode 2 of the How to Care Podcast: Talking About Death

End-of-life planning is an essential part of your healthcare journey and growing older. Too often, we witness families dispute what to do with mom or dad if they reach the end of life and fail to plan ahead.

We know it’s an uncomfortable subject to face, and nobody wants to plan to pass away; however, it is an essential part of life and such an important topic to cover.

Whether you or you’re loved one is facing a serious illness or simply want to ensure that your healthcare wishes are honored, end-of-life planning is a vital step in preparing for the future.

Drinking Tea elderly woman

What Is End-Of-Life Planning?

End-of-life planning is arranging and making decisions about your healthcare and personal wishes in advance.

If, in the event, you obtain a serious illness, fatal accident, or death, you will want to have an end-of-life plan in place to ensure your family and loved ones are aware of your final wishes and arrangements.

An end-of-life plan could include, but is not limited to:

  • What medical treatments do you want or don’t want
  • Identifies who you want to make medical decisions for if you cannot make them for yourself
  • Outlines any personal preferences for end-of-life care
  • Any financial and legal documents, like a will or trust
  • Designate any beneficiaries for life insurance policies or assets
  • Any funeral and burial arrangements

This could also include advance directives or a living will.

By planning for the end of life, you will ensure that your final wishes are respected and accounted for and that your family members and loved ones are aware of your preferences ahead of time. Ultimately, this will relieve any stress or uncertainty during a challenging and emotional time.

Why Is End of Life Planning Important?

There is a tremendous amount of importance to end-of-life planning. Planning for the end of life allows you to have a say in your healthcare and personal wishes, even when or if you can no longer communicate them.

By creating a plan, you can ensure that your final wishes are respected and that you receive the end-of-life care you want and deserve. It can also help your loved ones understand your desires and guide them during difficult and emotional times. Additionally, end-of-life planning can help alleviate any financial and legal burdens for your family members, and it will legitimize your plans.

Although planning ahead for the end of life can feel uncomfortable, it will eventually ease any disputes or tension among family members and loved ones. It can also bring you a sense of peace and comfort, knowing that you are prepared for any situation.

How To Create An End of Life Plan

Creating an end-of-life plan can be a challenge. Yet, going through the process, you’ll be able to engage in thoughtful end-of-life conversations with loved ones and encourage communication between you, your family, and your healthcare providers.

There are many components and steps to consider when you develop a thorough plan. Don’t overwhelm yourself—you do not need to do it all at once. Start by gathering the various components, placing them into a life file, and putting it all together when you are ready.

When you’ve reached the point where you’ve gathered what feels like enough information to put it all together, that is when you can share the plan with your loved ones and health providers if necessary. The best way to share the information securely is in person or with the help of a legal representative. Use a life binder or life file to keep it all together. In the next section, we’ve listed the 10 things you should include in your end-of-life plan so you can feel totally prepared for the next chapter of your life.

Elderly man gardening

10 Steps to Creating an End-of-Life Plan

Below we’ve listed the various components you’ll need to create the perfect end-of-life plan.

1) Values & Beliefs

The best place to start when you plan for the end of life is by evaluating your own values and beliefs before you even start. You should identify your spiritual or religious preferences and consider what type of spiritual or religious support you would like to have during the end of your life care.

It’s important to ask yourself:

  • What are my values?
  • What are my beliefs?
  • What legacy do I want to leave and pass down?
  • What do I want to be remembered for, and how do I want to be remembered?
  • How do I want to be cared for in my final days or years?
  • Why are these values important to me?

Sometimes it helps to write your own obituary as an exercise. It can help inform your values and what legacy you want to be remembered for. Knowing your values will help you develop a well-guided end-of-life plan that will make you feel prepared and assured as you transition into your later years. Start with these questions before gathering all the necessary life plan components.

2) Medical Preferences and End-of-Life Care

This component of your end-of-life plan is also known as “advance care planning.” Advanced care planning is a process that enables individuals to make plans for their future health care. The official document that you will want to include in your end-of-life plan is also known as “health care directives” or “advance directives.”

Think about your medical preferences and what you want your end-of-life care to look like.

  • Where would you like to receive care if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness?
  • Would you want to stay at home or live in an assisted living facility?
  • Do you want an end-of-life care team like Nurse Next Door in your home, or would you rather go to a palliative care facility?
  • Who do you want on your medical team?
  • Are there certain health specialists you want, like a physiotherapist or an end-of-life doula?

Really evaluate what is important to you and at what stage of your illness would require difficult healthcare decisions to be made about your ongoing or end-of-life care.

Create a medical care instruction guide for whoever will be in charge of making the decisions for you. You can also consider what medical treatments you want or don’t want and under what circumstances. For example, you might say that you do not want chemotherapy treatment, to be revived, to have life-sustaining treatment for a duration of time, or indefinitely, etc. These are the type of statements to consider when making end-of-life decisions.

This portion of your end-of-life plan should include any signed “No CPR or Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) orders and/or hospital medical orders stating your level of resuscitation and care.” [01] It should also include an organ donation document, and tissue donor designation, if applicable.

3) Choose a Healthcare Proxy or Substitute Decision-Maker

It’s important to appoint a healthcare proxy or substitute decision-maker in case you become incapacitated. These people are chosen by you in case you become incapable of making your own decisions regarding your health. They are meant to act on your behalf, communicate with medical professionals on your behalf, and make medical decisions while following your health wishes. You can officially disclose who you’d like to be your health proxy in your health care or advance directive.

4) A Living Will or Advance Directive

Drafting a living will or advance directive will help protect you legally in case you become incapable. These official legal documents outline your personal preferences, medical preferences, and end-of-life care goals.

It is recommended to consult a lawyer when putting together your living will. Unless you live in Louisiana, you do not need to notarize your will to make it a valid legal document.

5) Estate Planning

Consider your financial assets and legal arrangements in your end-of-life plan. Make sure your estate plan is in order, including a last will and testament, a legal document that communicates a person’s wishes for their assets.

With estate planning, it is recommended to consult a lawyer to help you designate beneficiaries for your assets, a power of attorney, and identify someone to manage your financial affairs or business decisions (if you have a business); if you cannot do so yourself.

6) Leaving Relevant Information Behind

Consider your digital accounts, usernames, passwords, important bank accounts, social media accounts, and any other relevant information you would like to leave behind securely. Appoint someone close to you, who you can trust, to manage the accounts or access them if they need.

7) Funeral and Burial Arrangements

Think about what type of funeral you want and what funeral arrangements must be made. Do you want a memorial service? Is it religious? How would you like your burial arrangements? Do you want a natural burial or to be cremated? These are important questions to ask yourself and to include in your end-of-life plan.

8) Final Gift

Are there any gifts you want to leave behind? Maybe you have a family heirloom or piece of art that you’d like someone in particular to have. Consider all of your assets and their value (even sentimental value), and include a gift list in your end-of-life plan.

9) Communicate Your Wishes

Once you have all your affairs in order, the next step is to communicate your plan with your loved ones. Determine how you will communicate your wishes with those parties involved. Ensure that your family and healthcare providers know about your end-of-life plan and have a copy of your advance directive or living will. Also, ensure you’ve discussed everyone’s role, like a healthcare proxy, in your plan before finalizing.

10) Update Your End-of-Life Plan

Stay up to date with your end-of-life plan. Review and update your end-of-life plan as soon as your circumstances and preferences change. If it’s been over five years, it’s best to take another look at your plan and ensure it’s according to your liking. Things can change, and plans change over time- your plan should be adaptable and flexible.

Client and Nurse Next Door Caregiver

How To Help Someone With End-Of-Life Planning

Creating an end-of-life plan can be a complex and emotional process, but ensuring that your wishes are respected and that you receive the care you want and deserve is vital. If you know someone who needs help in creating an end-of-life plan, consider working with a lawyer, financial advisor, or healthcare provider to guide you through the process.

Helping a senior with end-of-life planning can be quite meaningful, especially when you want to show your love and support. Start by having an open and honest conversation with them about their health wishes and preferences for end-of-life care. Encourage them to consult a lawyer and create a living will. Help them choose a healthcare proxy and offer to accompany them to appointments with healthcare providers or legal professionals. If you cannot help a senior you love, use Nurse Next Door to help with these critical appointments. We’re happy to accompany clients to their appointments.

It’s also important to provide seniors with love and emotional support throughout the entire process. It’s never easy making tough decisions about end of life, be sure to respect their autonomy and decisions, even if they differ from your own beliefs or preferences.

Helping a senior with end of life planning can bring a sense of comfort and peace of mind for both you and your loved one.

Elderly man and Nurse Next Door caregiver gardening

If you or a loved one needs help with end-of-life planning or care, consider contacting Nurse Next Door. Our caring and compassionate team ensures our clients receive the best care and support during these challenging times. We help guide you through an end-of-life plan tailored to your care needs, and we will work closely with you and your family to ensure your health wishes are respected and met.

With Nurse Next Door, you can trust that you or your loved one will receive personalized and compassionate care throughout the end-of-life journey.

Contact us today to get started, toll-free 1-877-588-8609.

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