End of life planning is an important decision-making process aimed at proactively solving problems that arise when a person is at the end of life and when they pass away. Everyone should consider end of life planning, regardless of their age and health status. Some people decide to start planning while they are still healthy, and early planning should especially be considered by those who have advanced chronic or terminal illnesses or who are at risk of dementia or similar conditions.
End of life planning is a great help to family members, loved ones and health care providers, because it lays out exactly what you’d like done in different, often difficult scenarios. End-of-life planning can be a positive experience however, helping you to reflect on the important things in your life and make important decisions for the future for your loved ones. You can find more useful resources on end of life, or advance care planning on the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care website.
Planning ahead is not only helpful in guaranteeing that your preferences will be respected, but it also prevents problems and takes a heavy burden off the shoulders of your loved ones, making decision-making easier for them.
The Importance of End of Life Planning
End-of-life planning is important for many reasons. Firstly, it’s important for yourself, as you ensure that your wishes are officially in place, and having your preferences set out in advance will give you peace of mind in knowing that even if you become ill and are unable to express your preferences, they will be taken into account and respected.
On the other hand, planning for the final stage of life is also a great comfort to the people around you. At the end of life, your loved ones will likely be experiencing emotions that are difficult to manage, and there may be differences about what would be best for you at the end of your life. Having an end of life plan takes a huge weight off their shoulders, as they will not have to make decisions for you because you’ve already laid out your wishes.
Talking about the end of life can be a sensitive and complicated topic for many people. However, most human beings have a clear idea of how they wish to be treated and cared for at the end of life, so working on this plan is the most reliable way to ensure that your wishes and preferences will be respected.
Palliative care offers physical, emotional and practical support to people with a life-limiting illness. It is a comprehensive form of care that plays an important role in an end of life care plan, as it aims to improve quality of life and enables maximum enjoyment of life until the end of a person’s life.
End of life care professionals address a person’s physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual needs and aim to improve the individual’s quality of life while mitigating symptoms. In addition to providing a better quality of life for someone suffering from a health condition, palliative care professionals also offer support to the loved ones and family members of the person receiving care.
Palliative care can be administered at any stage of illness, and can be combined with other therapies as needed. In the past, palliative care was only initiated when a person had completed treatments to cure their diseases or when they were dying. Today, it is recognised that palliative care has benefits when given alongside other therapies aimed at prolonging life, and there are people who have received palliative care for years. Find out more about palliative care in Australia here.
Having a palliative care specialist involved in end of life care provides both immediate and long-term benefits for a person and their loved ones. Palliative care helps families deal with difficult conversations, find resources, understand options and make decisions.
Palliative care services can be provided at home, an aged care home, a hospital, or a palliative care unit. If you want to know more about palliative care at home, contact us and learn how we can support you. Our professional caregivers offer the best quality care and will help you and your family through this difficult stage of life.
How Do You Start an End of Life Plan?
Planning for the end of life can be overwhelming and difficult. However, planning ahead will give you and your loved ones peace of mind. Talking to your loved ones is one of the first things you should do when beginning end of life planning. It is one of the most difficult steps, as the conversation can be uncomfortable. However, planning allows you to have control over what happens in the future and, more importantly, helps you to protect and keep the people you love.
If you have an illness or disease, health professionals can give you guidance on when to start this process. They will recommend the best time to start this process, how your illness is expected to evolve and can answer questions about your state of health.
How Do You Know it’s Time To Start End of Life Planning?
You can start planning as early as you want, regardless of your age or health condition. However, most people wait to plan until they are diagnosed with an advanced or incurable life-limiting illness and their health condition begins to deteriorate.
Health care providers, as well as your loved ones and family members, can assist you in the end of life planning process and can support you in this decision-making process if you wish. You can contact us at any time, and The CareSide’s professional team will guide you and assist you with any questions you may have. Planning ahead is the best way to ensure that you do not have to worry about it in the future.
Things to Include in An End of Life Plan
An end of life plan means taking a heavy weight off the shoulders of your loved ones and relieving them of the pressure of having to make decisions on your behalf.
While every end of life plan is different and will be tailored to each person’s circumstances and preferences, here are some aspects to keep in mind about what you can include in your end of life plan:
- Creating or updating your will, a legal document that lets you decide what happens with your estate when you pass, is key to an end of life plan. In your will you can set out what you want to happen to your assets and properties, who will take care of your children if you have them, leave instructions on what to do with your social media, emails and digital files and support your preferred causes if you have philanthropic end of life goals.
- Decide what to do with your possessions by making an inventory of valuable or emotionally valuable things you own. You can write down what you want to happen to these things once you are gone, or you can distribute them to loved ones or donate them during your lifetime.
- Plan your care by creating an official document that expresses what you want regarding your care and what actions you want to take in certain circumstances if you cannot express your desires in the future.
- Designate a durable power of attorney for your financial matters and establish the beneficiaries of your bank accounts.
- Express your preferences about life-sustaining measures, such as whether you are against certain life-prolonging measures, like resuscitation or intubation.
- List your property and mortgages, bank accounts, life insurance, investments, credits and any other useful information for your loved ones.
- Include whether you would like to spend your final moments at home or in hospital and your wishes concerning medical treatments at the end of your life. You can also appoint a medical power of attorney to make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot do so in the future.
- Write down your wishes regarding burial arrangements and funeral plans. You can decide who to notify, what type of service you prefer and even write your own obituary.
- Indicate where you have valuable items or stored cash and provide instructions on how to access it and what to do with it.
- End of life planning tools: https://www.gogentleaustralia.org.au/end_of_life_planning_tools
- Planning your palliative care: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/palliative-care/planning-your-palliative-care
- Planning: end of life: https://www.dementia.org.au/planning-ahead/their-plans/end-of-life
- End of life care: https://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/Health-for/Health-professionals/End-of-life
- Death with dignity: creating your life file: a checklist for end of life planning: https://deathwithdignity.org/resources/life-file/