There’s Still Time to Talk About Your End of Life Wishes
August 8 has been designated Dying to Know Day and it’s an annual campaign that’s all about empowering people at all stages to live and die well. A big part of that is being proactive about end-of-life planning. The premise is that the more you can be prepared for death, the more likely your wishes will be met. If you or a loved one are in end-of-life care in Santa Clara or elsewhere, remember it’s not too late to talk about your end-of-life wishes!
In general, end-of-life planning encompasses five main areas:
- Assessing your own fears, values, expectations, and what’s important to you
- Legal decisions, i.e., will, power of attorney, advance directives, etc.
- Digital and other assets, organ donation, pets, etc.
- Your personal legacy
- Your send-off, i.e., burial vs. cremation, funeral Mass vs. simple service, etc.
No one wants to talk about their own death or that of a loved one, yet it’s an important conversation to have. In fact, experts say it shouldn’t be just one conversation — it should be several small conversations over time that help to formulate a plan.
It’s important to discuss your end-of-life wishes early on with your family. Don’t wait until a crisis hits, advises the National Hospice Foundation. You can use these occasions as good platforms for these discussions:
- Significant life events such as the birth of a child or grandchild, death of a loved one, marriage, divorce, retirement, college graduation, anniversaries, and birthdays.
- When drawing up your will or engaging in other forms of estate planning.
- When major illness forces you or a family member to move into a retirement community and out of the home.
- During holiday meals and gatherings when all family members are present.
The point is to have regular discussions about your end-of-life wishes because your views may change over time, plus this gives you an opportunity to ask advice from others and get their viewpoints. However, in the end, death planning is all about you and what you want.
Dying: A Universal Experience
No one escapes death. It’s the one thing that unifies us as a people. The only uncertainty is when. That’s why good planning is necessary. This could greatly impact the way you spend your final days. Yet most people shy away from talking about death, especially their own or someone very close to them. As a result, how we wish to die is the most important and most expensive conversation we aren’t having, points out AARP.
- Ninety percent of people say it’s important to discuss end-of-life wishes with loved ones, yet only 27 percent have done this.
- One in five respondents to a survey by the Conversation Project says they have avoided the subject because they feared upsetting their loved ones.
- Most people claim they want to die at home, yet 60 percent end up dying in hospitals or institutions.
Getting started can be the hardest part. Here are some questions and considerations to get the ball rolling.
Ask yourself: What matters most to me at the end of life? Would I feel more comfortable at home? Do I worry that my kids or other family members will have to up-end their whole lives to care for me? Share a “what matters to me” statement with your family so everyone is on the same page. This will also give your loved ones a jumping-off point when care is actually needed. They can even provide that statement to your doctor and care team to ensure those wishes are followed to the letter.
Next, think about these care issues, for yourself or for your aging spouse, parent, etc. for whom you serve as caregiver.
- For patients: How much would you like to know about your condition? All the details or just the basics? What about a happy medium?
- How much information do you want your doctors to share with your kids, spouse, or other loved ones?
- Which family member do you want to be the primary decision maker?
- In the case of terminal illness, would you like to know how quickly your condition is progressing? Do you want to know how much time you have left as per your doctors?
- Do you want indefinite treatment regardless of how uncomfortable it becomes, or do you value quality of life more? The quality vs. quantity decision is a very important one to have.
- Do you want to die at home, or would you prefer a more sterile, objective environment such as a nursing home or hospital?
- When you are approaching death, would you like to be left alone or would you like to be surrounded by your loved ones?
Asking the tough questions and seeking the answers to those questions early on will help guide you through the last phase of your life.
Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice
Transitioning to hospice can be stressful and overwhelming for patients and their families. We can let you know what to expect so you can prepare for the transition. To know more, contact us at 888-978-1306.