The Best Way to Begin End-of-Life Planning

Typically, we don’t like thinking about death and dying- let alone talking about it. But having an early discussion about end of life planning is crucial for your final moments. Picture this: one day you’re sitting comfortably at home, and then the next you’re connected to multiple IVs and fading in and out of consciousness. You want to be sure that you’ve advocated for your needs before it’s too late. No matter your age or health, it’s important to take decisive action on your end of life plan before autonomy is out of your hands. 

When approaching end-of-life planning the best place to start is with your values. This is the time to think about quality or quantity. This is asking yourself: do you want to have your last moments of life full of quality moments, comfort, and ease at the expense of time? Or do you desire a quantity of time at the expense of comfort- offering yourself a bit more or borrowed time? 

Would you rather be at home or in the hospital? Would you like to practice religious beliefs before you pass? Do you want to donate your organs when you die? Take time to consider your values and how you want them represented in your time of passing. 

Create a Legal Document

An advance directive is a legal document that tracts and enforces your end of life wishes. When you’re incapacitated you lose your ability to offer a say in your treatment. This document ensures your desires are seen through. Again, this is when you consider your value or quality vs. quantity. Do you want to have impactful, comforting, but perhaps shorter moments in the end? Or a prolonged and likely painful continuation of sustained living? In your living will you dictate the procedure of your final moments. 

Designate a Person That Will Honor Your Wishes

Appoint a trusted loved one to see your desires through. This is a medical proxy. This person is in charge of what medically happens to your body if you lose autonomy. When choosing this person it’s important to decide upon an individual who understands you, your values and wants the best for you- despite how difficult decisions can become around the hospital bed. When advanced medical decisions are being made on your livelihood, decisions that will impact how much longer you are surviving, it can be easy for previous decisions to change. Designate someone who will honor the plan when emotions run high. 

Talk With Your Loved Ones

Once you have your will, both living and post-parting, and medical proxy decided- share your decisions and desires with your loved ones. This gives those within your circle the opportunity to ask questions and understand the importance of your decision. If there are any surprises it’s best to discuss this now. When the moment arrives there can be complications or contradictions or obstacles to hurdle, and when there’s been proper communication, and deep understanding of values, it allows your loved ones to function with flexibility- always choosing to honor your needs over their comfort. Many nurses will report that family members erupt into conflict when new decisions need to be made, potentially extending uncomfortable situations. 

There is are no perfect answers to end of life planning

Except for that your wishes are fulfilled during your final moments. That’s why it’s so important to have these conversations with your loved ones- and to assert legal support to put your will into writing. Once you’re incapacitated you will be at the mercy of medical professionals or your loved ones in charge. Safeguard that your desires are honored by being proactive. The best time to prepare for your passing is in the present.

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