End of Life Care Planning
What is End of Life Care Planning?
Planning ahead for the end of life, or advanced care planning (ACP), involves discussing an individual’s wishes for how they are cared for in the final months of their life.
This is a vital process to ensure a person’s family is clear about their wishes, and should they need to, they will be able to make informed decisions about the individual’s care.
The planning process is a way to improve care for those who are nearing the end of their life, enabling a better provision of care to help them live and die well in a manner of their choosing.
Any decisions made are clearly recorded, and any surrogates or advocates can be clearly documented and appointed, further ensuring the wishes of the individual are fully respected at the end of life.
The ultimate goal is to clearly understand and record a person’s preferences and needs to ensure care is delivered accordingly.
Planning for End of Life
There are lots of ways that care can be provided for an older person who is dying. Oftentimes, this care ‘package’ will involve a team of people working together. Typically, there are four key areas that are discussed when planning the end of life.
Next, we will explain each of these in a little more detail.
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Mental and Emotional Needs
Comprehensive end-of-life care will involve ensuring the individual who is dying gets help to manage any emotional or mental distress.
Understandably, if a person is alert at the end of their life, they could feel anxious or depressed. As such, emotional pain and suffering must be treated.
This could involve utilizing the services of a professional counselor who is familiar with end-of-life matters. In severe cases of anxiety, medication could also be presented as an option.
Because different people handle death in different ways, family members might find it challenging to visit, and this could lead to an individual feeling isolated and alone. Music therapy and soft lighting are useful to help with relaxation.
Physical discomfort at a person’s end of life can present in many forms, and for each separate instance, there are ways to help a person feel more comfortable.
Pain, skin irritation, digestive issues, breathing problems, and tiredness are all common at a person’s end of life.
The end-of-life planning process will aim to understand an individual’s exclusive wishes where medication is concerned.
There are many practicalities that need to be accounted for at the end of life—determining health benefits and eligibilities, notarizing durable power of Attorney, organ donation, funeral plans, health care directives, legal and financial matters all need to be handled.
Understanding a person’s spiritual beliefs and needs is key. Family members might not always be fully informed, and for an individual nearing the end of life, understanding their spiritual needs can be just as important as knowing their physical concerns.
While some people may find comfort and solace in faith, others will not.
End-of-life planning will address this, discuss it, and seek to gain a clear understanding of what a person wants to happen, anything they do not wish to happen and to define who can speak for them in the event they become unable to do so for themselves.
Important End of Life Planning Practicalities
Planning ahead benefits the individual as well as their families, loved ones, and carers. It can offer peace of mind, knowing that the people who are close to an individual will be looked after once a person passes away. In this section, we discuss some of the practicalities that should be taken care of.
One of the elements of an advance directive is a durable power of Attorney.
This is a legal document that defines a health care proxy, which is a named person who you trust to make important medical decisions on your behalf.
They are known as a surrogate, proxy, representative, or agent, and they need to be fully informed of your wishes.
You can choose a proxy as well as, or instead of a living will.
If a person does not want to outline specific health decisions in writing, having a named agent to make decisions on their behalf can be an alternative solution.
As part of the advanced care planning process, certain decisions about specific medical preferences are made ahead of time.
Outlining these preferences and informing health care providers and the family of an individual’s wishes is also known as an advanced directive.
This legal document will only take effect if a person is unable to speak for themselves.
Typically, preferences regarding CPR, organ and tissue donation, or DNR orders are included within an advanced directive.
The decision about where an individual would want to spend their last moments could also be included within these documents.
Every situation and every family are unique. As such, to avoid any ill-feeling or family disputes once a person is no longer here, it is essential to make a clear will as soon as possible.
Legal guidance is always advised for matters relating to a person’s legal and financial affairs.
This is something else that can be handled ahead of time, and once in place, it offers peace of mind to the individual and their family.
The type of service, whether a person prefers a burial vs. cremation, the music, who should attend; oftentimes, planning these details offers reassurance and prevents any misunderstanding or family disputes regarding what an individual may have wanted.
Writing an End of Life Plan
At Conscious Aging Solutions, our team understands the myriad of difficult choices an individual will need to make when planning the end of life.
Our team can help you by supporting a constructive discussion, talking you through each and every option, and ensuring your values, wishes, and needs are fully understood and accounted for.
We will then produce your plan and ensure any parties you wish to inform are given a copy to keep.
Planning ahead, talking about key matters, and writing everything down will ensure that your wishes are respected and clear.
It means you are more likely to get the specific care you want in a place of your choosing should you become unwell or can no longer speak for yourself.
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