It often seems easier and more comfortable in an emotional sense to stay away from conversations concerning end-of-life arrangements in favour of focusing on enjoying the time that we do have left to spend in the company of our loved ones.
The results of multiple studies have shown that seniors who take part in important end-of-life conversations with their families and healthcare professionals are significantly more likely to be satisfied with the care they receive in the ending stages of their lives. Putting all of the arrangements in place in advance with seniors’ wishes at the forefront has also been shown to lessen the instances of depression experienced by their loved ones and caregivers. Rather than spending a lot of time and energy being concerned about whether they made the right choices on behalf of their loved ones should they be unable to make them for themselves, family members and caregivers can feel confident that the decisions that have been made were chosen by the person in question, respecting all their wishes and desires for the end of their lives. In these pertinent ways, advanced planning for end-of-life works to put in place arrangements that can help both seniors and those who care for them to have as positive an experience as possible when it comes to the end-of-life.
Starting a conversation early and engaging in planning far in advance may seem grim, as the idea of thinking about the end-of-life earlier than feels necessary can seem disheartening and negative, but preparing early is actually the best thing that seniors and their loved ones can do. Many of the decisions concerning end-of-life are challenging to make in general, so trying to make them under pressure after a difficult situation has already taken root is significantly more difficult. Rather than feeling lost and unsure of what to do should tragedy strike, seniors and their loved ones should have all the important conversations and put all the arrangements into place so that, should an event occur, energy can be directed towards tending to emotions and feelings rather than to trying to make difficult decisions without any idea of how best to proceed.
It can be daunting to start a conversation that will likely be difficult and emotional for everyone involved, but taking it step-by-step until everything is in place will be really helpful in the long run. Many individuals find it useful to seek guidance or advice from trusted friends, healthcare professionals, or important people in their lives such as connections in communities of belief or other peers concerning how to best proceed with open conversations about end-of-life issues. Various recourses also exist online such as Speak Up Advance Care Planning that offer information, strategies, and guidance about approaching end-of-life conversations and advance planning.
The following are some general notions to keep in mind that can help to inform the process of working through advance planning efforts and making a plan:
- Make a Plan: Diving into having a set of conversations that are so emotionally charged and also involve so many different elements can be daunting, especially when you don’t know where to start or how to proceed. It can be helpful to start by making lists of everything that needs to be addressed and planning it out step by step. Start by consulting resources or literature about the process and all it should involve, decide who needs to be involved in the discussions and in what capacity, and make a game plan for how to move forward in a productive but manageable way. Starting out by structuring things and determining each person’s roles can help to streamline the process and make it feel less stressful.
- Talk to a Healthcare Professional: Doctors and healthcare professionals in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge can offer a helpful perspective on emergency care, treatment options, and other important elements of end-of-life care that can help to inform decisions that are important for seniors and their loved ones moving forward. Many seniors find it helpful to ask for their healthcare professionals point of view regarding the options for end-of-life so that they can consider all the options fully.
- Get Things in Writing: Talking everything though is a huge and important step in planning for the end-of-life, but it isn’t quite enough. Making sure that everything has been recorded in writing means that everyone will be on the same page and there won’t be any need to try to remember the specifics of a conversation that may have been had months or years in advance. Making sure that every wish is written down and the important legal steps are taken to have desires recognized is an incredibly important step.
- Prepare Documents: There are a whole host of documents that are relevant to advanced planning and making arrangements for end-of-life care. Seniors and their loved ones should research things such as living wills, power or attorney for health care and finances, Do-not-resuscitate orders (DNR), wills, living trusts, and other pertinent documents. Preparing these documents is part of the process of getting all decisions written down and arranged properly for when the time comes that consulting them becomes relevant.
- Discuss Hospice: Not everyone is aware of the option of Hospice care for the end of life, but it can be a valuable option for seniors and their families in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge to discuss when they are making end-of-life plans. Hospice Care offers medical care, spiritual resources, and emotional support for people who are facing terminal illnesses, and is certainly an option worth discussing.
When it comes to end-of-life desires, there is no way to know what seniors want without asking them directly and starting a conversation that creates the opportunity to talk through all their options and share their preferences for how they would like things to be done. While the conversations may be emotionally draining and challenging, it is the best way to make sure that seniors wishes are carried out and respected as best as possible when it comes to the end of their lives. Dedicating enough time into having important discussions in advance can improve the experience for seniors and for their loved ones too. Planning everything in advance also takes concerns related to uncertainty off the table, and allow seniors and their families to just enjoy the time they have to spend with one another.