Planning For The End: An End Of Life Planning Checklist
© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
This month, we're recognising the upcoming 8th annual 'Dying To Know Day' (D2KDay), an Australian initiative dedicated to encouraging conversations about death, dying and bereavement.
Attitudes towards preparing for death have changed throughout the course of human history. With our better quality of living, medical advances and move away from spirituality, modern Western society tends to ignore or even fear death.
We see death, not as a part of life, but as something 'over there', to be forgotten until it reaches out and takes us. This separation of death from the circle of life leaves us floundering when death does reach out and take us or a loved one.
Reduce the anxiety - be prepared
If you or a loved one receive a diagnosis of terminal illness, severe cognitive or physical decline, the best way to reduce the distress and anxiety of the coming journey is to start preparing an ‘end of life’ plan.
The simple act of making a plan dampens anxiety and gives a degree of structure at a time when life appears to be out of control. Making a plan will see you regain some control and give comfort that your wishes are followed.
Most Australians are not prepared
According to Grattan Institute research conducted in 2014, most Australians appear to have lost control of their final wishes for lack of preparation. It found that:
- Over 70% of Australians die in hospital though most would prefer to die at home (refer also recent Royal Commission Study into Aged Care Quality & Safety that showed similar results].
- Very few Australians have end of life treatment and care plans, and almost half die without a will.
- 75% of Australians have not had end of life discussions yet; 60% believe death is not discussed enough.
Getting your affairs in order
Getting your affairs in order covers all areas of your life including your legal and estate planning requirements, your financial requirements and investments, your family, friends and spiritual requirements.
Where to start
The most logical starting point is getting the paperwork done. This means drawing up a Will, an Enduring Power of Attorney, an Enduring Guardianship and an Advanced Health Directive. For more information, take a look at this prior blog on preparing your essential legal documents and estate planning.
Planning the physical journey
The next step is to think about and plan the coming journey. Consider the following:
- Where do you want to be at the end of your life? Your preference may be to die at home rather than in a hospital, hospice or residential aged care facility.
- What type of care and support services do you want in place? And as part of this question, who you want around you day to day? If you are at home, you may wish to have nurses visit for daily checks and medication administration, and have private carers visit three times a day to prepare meals. As your health declines you may wish to call in a community palliative care team, and have the support and counsel of a death doula or only have family members present.
- What home services do you need? If you are at home, think about getting in some external domestic cleaning, handyman and gardening services to alleviate the pressure on carers and family members from doing these tasks.
Make your personal preference known
In your plan, consider listing your personal preferences such as:
- Favourite foods or drinks or foods you are currently enjoying.
- Favourite television or radio programmes.
- The type of music you enjoy listening to or whether you’d like to listen to someone reading to you or talking books.
- Whether you like physical touching, for example, massage with essential oils and handholding.
- Who you would like to visit and your signal as to whether you feel like ‘chatting’ or ‘having quiet times’.
- Your spirituality and your religion and whether you’d like the head of your religious community to visit.
Preparing the farewell on death
Voice your wishes on death, including whether you’d like:
- A funeral or a memorial service.
- A burial or cremation, and the place of interment. If you wish to have your ashes scattered, identify where you would like them scattered.
- A wake or memorial service.
Choose a funeral director. Provide them with an update on your health and ask them for a checklist of things you need to do in advance.
Document your thoughts and actions on the points listed into an ‘end of life’ plan and share it with those closest to you including your Power of Attorney(s) and your Enduring Guardian(s). This will help ensure your end of life is comfortable and dignified, and as you wished it to be.
If you're looking for additional support or guidance on planning care for the end of life, feel free to contact me, Danielle Robertson at DR Care Solutions, for an initial discussion on how to set up the right care, support and assistance at the right time and in the right place.