You have probably heard the old expression that only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. If you already pay taxes, death is now life’s next certainty. While Congress works on the issue of tax reform, there is a growing need to reform the way we view death and how we approach end-of-life planning.
As a hospice social worker, I work each day with people facing one of life’s certainties. End-of-life planning is one way we can all prepare. By preparing, we can retain some measure of control, and having plans in place will make this experience less difficult for our families. Here are some key things to keep in mind when you make those decisions:
Advanced directives clearly communicate the type of medical treatment you would or would not want. They also pinpoint who you would choose to make medical and financial decisions if you were unable to do so. You can change the directives as you age and your situation changes.
- Make sure your family is aware of your preference for burial or cremation, along with other details about your wishes. Selecting a funeral home will help with this process.
- Leave a will that clearly states how you want your property, possessions or other things in your care to be distributed. If possible, consult an attorney who specializes in estate planning.
- Consider your home environment. What might help you stay in your home if your care needs increase? Learn about options for in-home health care that can be tailored to your needs, visit assisted living facilities and visit skilled nursing facilities so you know your options before you need the help.
- Talk to your family, friends and health care providers about beliefs and values that are important to you. This can be done just as easily over a lunch, taking a walk or visiting your provider for your yearly checkup.
This is by no means a complete list, but from my experience, it offers a few of the most important considerations. Completing most of these steps in advance is a wonderful gift to give your family. Studies show that advanced directives, and having these discussions with your family, can decrease hospitalizations near the end of life. While these conversations can be difficult at times, they can also bring a great peace of mind to you and your family by removing doubts about your end-of-life wishes. When it comes to preparing for death, the more prepared you are, the higher quality of life you can enjoy.
At RiverStone Health Hospice we strive to provide comfort care when it’s needed most. Often that means helping families navigate through end-of-life planning decisions. We would much rather see families spend their time telling stories, laughing, crying and eating favorite family dishes than worrying about these other considerations. Unlike Tax Day, our death date is unknown. So use this column as a conversation starter about end-of-life planning with your family and health care providers.