While the medical approach of focusing on helping improve quality of life is generally preferable to additional poking, prodding and sometimes painful, tiring testing or further treatments, it doesn’t always mean that someone will get better.
This is why the team at Accredited Home Care encourages people to consider making some of their end-of-life care decisions early.
This way, they won’t have to worry about making them later, especially if their health is ever at a point where they aren’t able to make these decisions themselves.
This can provide peace of mind rather than worrying about health care providers trying to decide for themselves, possibly against what the client wants. It also avoids having family members make these choices, which can be difficult especially if there are disagreements.
Either situation can be stressful for everyone involved, especially if you aren’t physically or mentally able to make these choices. Even if you are able to make them later, it might be under a crisis situation, so all in all, if you decide sooner rather than later, you’ll be able to make a more informed choice and not be rushed.
Types of choices
People trying to get a head start on their end of life choices can consider a variety of options.
- Medical Directives. This tells medical staff whether you want them to take all measures to save your life or let you go at a certain point. Some people aren’t eager to have their bodies sustained by a machine even after there’s no obvious brain activity or after major organ failure. Others may want every step taken until there aren’t any viable choices. Items like a living will provide your choice to any providers. It also can indicate your preferences for organ donation, another area where others may be uncomfortable or uncertain deciding on your behalf.
- Power of attorney. This authorizes someone to make legal decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so, whether it’s a hospital setting or care outside of a hospital, such as whether to relocate to an assisted living facility. He or she will be given the ability to speak for you. Appointing this person ahead of time gives them time to accept the role and go over possible circumstances with you. It also allows the decision to be formally recorded rather than an oral contract.
- Housing. Whether you’re OK staying at home receiving home health care or relocating to a place where extra care and supervision is needed can be a difficult conversation with family. But it is a necessary conversation that’s easier when there’s no urgency, such as someone who may have fallen and may need to move immediately. At times like these, family members may rush into a decision or the client may not have a chance to give their approval.
- Hospice care. A provider may recommend hospice services when a client reaches a certain mental or physical point, often when they have less than six months to live. But the decision is often up to the person themselves and their family. Making arrangements ahead of time for when you might need hospice care can go a long way to reassure families when this point is reached.
- Will/estate planning. People who die without a known will can create all sorts of legal headaches and even conflict for family members or others who might receive proceeds from the estate. Even people with few assets should still give clear instructions as to how they should be allocated and appoint an executor, which is someone who will make sure these wishes will be carried out.
- Final arrangements. Outlining what should happen after your death can also go a long way to minimizing stress on family members while they should be focusing on their grief. This can include details of your funeral, the method of burial, or other final wishes. There are also some financial incentives for planning far in advance. Some funeral homes or cemeteries may provide a discount or lock in the price if you make arrangements well in advance, rather than the family coming to them after you’re gone, needing assistance in a hurry or disagreeing on what your final wishes could have been. Overall, planning ahead for possible end-of-life choices can be a smart idea all around. It can help clients and those around them feel less stressed or anxious about what’s ahead, knowing that some tough choices have already been made.
Though the team at Accredited Home Care can’t give legal advice, they often confidentially share what some of their other clients have experienced, whether it’s trying to anticipate and plan ahead for end of life needs or not being ready and having higher stress and unhappiness when difficult things do happen.