End-of-life care is still somewhat of a taboo topic for Americans and is often associated with pain, sadness, and fear. But, in reality, as a person reaches the end of their life, they deserve to do so with dignity, respect, and comfort. That’s why learning how to plan end-of-life care is an essential part of supporting your loved ones.
Studies have shown that 70% of Americans want to reach the end of their lives at home with loved ones. Nonetheless, two-thirds die in hospitals or care facilities away from the comfort of their home, family, and friends.
An end-of-life planning checklist can make your loved one’s wish a reality. If you don’t know how to plan end-of-life care, learn the steps you should take to facilitate comfort and minimize chaos for your loved one nearing the end of their life.
When Is It time?
Palliative care differs significantly from clinical care. The latter emphasizes the use of life-saving measures to treat, cure, and support life. Conversely, palliative care supports the natural transition from life to death by treating pain symptoms and any other mental and physical suffering.
Every person is different, so there isn’t a “perfect” time to start working through an end-of-life planning checklist. However, if you or a loved is experiencing any of the following circumstances, we recommend talking with a palliative care doctor:
- Multiple ER or hospital trips with no positive progress
- Admissions for worsening symptoms
- The decision to stop receiving treatments for a disease
- Disease progression enters end-stage
Although making an end-of-life planning checklist may seem daunting and defeatist, it’s the kindest and most selfless thing you can do for a loved one who is approaching the end of their life.
How to Plan for End of Life Care
An end-of-life checklist gives you the confidence that your loved one will enjoy their final days and months of life. While this is not a finalized or all-inclusive list, and although all patients have subtly different needs, these following items are important to consider in your planning process:
Involve Your Loved One
In facing a terminal illness, your loved one may feel out of control and powerless, which is why you should certainly involve them as much as possible in your plans. This will ensure that their wishes for end-of-life care are known and met. The important decisions to be made include DNR orders, care, and placement,and environmental factors. For instance, does your loved one prefer a quiet, somber environment, or one more lively? If your loved one is able to communicate with you, commit their ideas to paper.
End-of-life care plans should be inspired by the individuals facing the end of their lives; however, they may be unable to directly participate in the planning process. In these cases, you should do your best to base your plans on what your loved one would wish for if they could tell you.
Determine a Location
Many people prefer to live their final moments in a safe and familiar place, but some may also require hands-on care. Decide early on where your loved one wants to be or go for comfort care. They may want to remain in their home, go to a family member’s home, a hospice facility, or a nursing care facility. Regardless of the location, the space should be safe and fulfill their personal wishes.
Arrange for In-Home Medical Care
If your loved one wants to be at home when they pass, you may need additional help from professional in-home caretakers, family members, or a combination of both.
Review Wills and Finances
Consider your loved one’s legal and financial obligations and make sure their will is wrapped up. Identify a medical power of attorney if someone has not been chosen already. Consult a lawyer if necessary to tie up loose ends.
Arrange Funeral Plans
Making funeral arrangements as soon as possible can help your loved one feel included. They may want to pick an urn or coffin or make decisions on music or flowers. Other loved ones may want nothing to do with this part of the process.
Either way, when funeral plans are finalized well in advance, it allows you to focus on supporting your loved one and other family members through the process.
Provide Physical Comfort
End of life brings physical discomfort. The most common issues are:
- Digestive problems
- Temperature sensitivity
- Breathing issues
Palliative care services will provide your loved one with support for any physical issues they’re experiencing toward the end of their lives. You can also use pillows and blankets to keep them warm and comfortable.
Support Emotional and Mental Needs
Depression and anxiety are common in humans facing the end of life. Palliative care can provide some medications to help alleviate these symptoms. You can also offer emotional support through your presence, physical touch, conversation, and through setting a mood of peace and relaxation.
Provide Spiritual Care
Your loved one might struggle with their faith or beliefs toward the end of their life. You can help support their spiritual care by reading religious texts or inviting someone from your loved one’s church or religious community to visit.
Spiritual care also means making amends with your loved ones or encouraging others to make amends with them. Your loved one may feel a sense of renewed peace after settling unresolved issues with friends and family.
Identify Respite Care
It may seem selfish, but caregivers need care, too. Caring for someone in palliative care is emotionally, mentally, and physically taxing. For prolonged terminal illnesses, the stress may seem too much to bear, and you may feel guilt and grief simultaneously. You may also feel resentment toward your loved one or other family members.
Remember, these are normal feelings. They don’t make you an unfit caregiver, just a caregiver who needs some time to reset. If you can, find a support group. It’s also helpful to take an actual break from caregiving. Arrange for a trusted family member or in-home professional to spend time with your loved one in your absence. Time away will help you take better care of your loved one.
There is no one way how to plan for end-of-life care. Of course, it isn’t an enjoyable task, nor is it one we anticipate until we’re faced with a loved one’s terminal illness. By following the steps outlined above, you are giving a precious gift to your loved one at the end of their life.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.