You may meet with reluctance when you start the planning process – as end-of-life care and death are topics that most people try to avoid. Even physicians are often uncomfortable starting conversations about these topics. Likewise families are often hesitant to have conversations with their loved ones about care preferences. No one can make someone do what they are not ready or willing to do, but it is important to begin to discuss the real advantages of early planning and the potential dire consequences of putting it off.
Step One: Get the information you need to understand what care options are available in your community. Also find out what type of services each hospice agency provides. Hospice care can be used in conjunction with many other care options. You can contact a member of our hospice team to request additional information about hospice and each of the care environments listed below.
Care options that you should be informed about include:
- In-home care giver
- Home Health Care
- Continuous Care Retirement Communities
- Group Homes
- Assisted Living Facilities
- Skilled Nursing Facilities
Step Two: Talk with your loved ones about your thoughts and concerns. Encourage them to share their wishes for end-of-life care. Because people are now living longer, loss of memory and impaired mental status is becoming a much more common problem.
Having conversations about care preferences can decrease the chance of future family conflict, and lessens the burden of making decisions for your loved ones. Early decision making also allows the patient to be more confident that their choices are known and will be honored when the time comes.
If you are uncomfortable having an end-of-life conversation with your loved ones, you may want to consider asking an objective third party to lead the discussion. Your faith leader, an attorney or a hospice social worker are a few possible options. Sometimes having a third party involved opens the door to allow you and your loved one to talk more frankly and openly about your individual wishes.
Step Three: Complete written Advanced Directives (Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney, etc.) that clearly spell out your care choices. It is also a good idea to talk to your physician about your medical condition and your preferences. Then you can get their recommendations for care options and this will help insure that the two of you are on the same page when a significant change in your health condition occurs. If you choose to enter hospice care; the hospice social worker can assist you with paperwork needed for Advanced Directives and answer your questions.
Step Four: Be certain that you have copies of your completed Advanced Directives in an accessible place – keeping your only copy in a safety deposit box is NOT a good idea! It is a good idea to give copies of your directives to your physician, your family and anyone else who might be involved in your healthcare.
Step Five: Discuss your choices with your family and healthcare providers on a routine basis. Remember – you can always make changes to your Advanced Directives.
Step Six: As part of your end-of-life planning, consider developing a written document expressing your burial and memorial service preferences. If you have a burial policy, place this with your funeral planning document and make certain that your family knows where these records are located. Your loved ones will appreciate knowing that they are following your wishes as they remember and celebrate your life.