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The Final Farewell: The Importance of Planning End of Life Preferences

While not a popular topic, I wanted to write about this subject because we never know when our health may change or when it’s our last day on Earth. It’s important to make sure you have thought about and communicated your end of life wishes as well as discuss this with other loved ones about their desires, too. My mother-in-law recently passed away and she had her final arrangements pre-planned. This was a blessing and a gift to the loved ones she left behind which is what prompted me to write about the topic. She was ninety years old, but she died unexpectedly from a heart attack. She had all the details prepared including an updated will, naming her executor, where she wanted to have the service, the type of service, information to include in the obituary, designating a specific poem to be read during the memorial, and where she wants to be buried which was pre-paid. She had everything written down in a file to make sure her end of life wishes were to be carried out in the way she wanted. My mother also had funeral arrangements pre-paid in advance. When she was older and suffered from various health complications, I had the uncomfortable conversation with her about her requests, wrote down details about her history and accomplishments, as well as funeral details, and put that information in a file so that it would be available when needed.

 

Planning one’s own care and funeral arrangements may not be a topic many eagerly embrace, but it’s an essential aspect of responsible end-of-life preparation. While it may seem morbid or uncomfortable to contemplate, taking control of your final medical care and funeral arrangements can provide peace of mind for both you and your loved ones. In addition to thinking of your own arrangements, it’s important to talk to your parents and spouse about their wishes when their time comes as well.

 

Here’s why it’s a crucial step and how to approach the process. This article will first address end of life care and then steps to prepare for funeral arrangements.

 

Planning Your End-of-Life Care

 

Facing the reality of our mortality can be daunting, but planning for the end of life is an act of compassion towards ourselves and our loved ones. Taking proactive steps to plan for our end-of-life care ensures that our wishes are honored and provide comfort and clarity during a challenging time.

 

End-of-life care encompasses a range of medical, emotional, and practical support provided to individuals nearing the end of their lives. This type of care focuses on maximizing comfort, dignity, and quality of life for patients and their families. It may include palliative care, hospice care, and other supportive services tailored to meet the unique needs and preferences of individuals facing terminal illness or advanced age.

 

Initiating Conversations

 

Initiating conversations about end-of-life care can be challenging, but it’s an essential step in the planning process. Start by discussing your wishes with your loved ones, healthcare providers, and anyone else involved in your care. Be open and honest about your values, preferences, and goals for your end-of-life experience. These conversations can help ensure that your wishes are understood and respected by those closest to you.

 

Advance Directives

 

Advance directives are legal documents that allow individuals to specify their preferences for medical treatment and end-of-life care in the event that they are unable to communicate their wishes. Speak with a legal professional about the options available and what your preferences are. There are several types of advance directives, including:

 

  • Living Will: A document that outlines the types of medical interventions and treatments you do or do not want to receive in specific situations, such as life-sustaining measures, resuscitation, and artificial nutrition and hydration.


  • Healthcare Power of Attorney: A document that designates a trusted individual (known as a healthcare proxy or surrogate) to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself.


  • Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order: A medical order indicating that you do not wish to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest.

 

End-of-Life Care Preferences

 

Consider your preferences for end-of-life care, including where you would like to receive care (e.g., at home, in a hospice facility, or in a hospital), pain management options, spiritual or religious support, and other aspects of your comfort and well-being. Communicate these preferences to your healthcare team and loved ones to ensure that your wishes are honored.

 

Other Considerations

 

In addition to medical and emotional aspects, there are practical considerations to address when planning for the end of life. These may include:

 

  • Legal and Financial Planning: Review and update your will, estate plans, and beneficiary designations. Consider appointing a durable power of attorney to handle financial matters on your behalf.


  • Funeral and Burial Arrangements: Consider your preferences for funeral or memorial services, burial or cremation, and other end-of-life rituals. Communicate these preferences to your loved ones and consider pre-planning these arrangements to alleviate the burden on your family.

 

The Final Farewell: Planning the Funeral

 

I’m enjoying life and not ready for the party to end yet but death is inevitable, and acknowledging this reality can be empowering. While we may not always know how and when the end is coming, by recognizing the certainty of our mortality we can take proactive steps to ensure that our final wishes are honored and that our loved ones are spared from making difficult decisions during a time of grief. Here are a few reasons to plan ahead:

 

  • Relieving the Burden on Loved Ones - Losing a loved one is undoubtedly one of life’s most challenging experiences. By planning your own end of life care and funeral arrangements, you can alleviate the burden on your family and friends during an already emotionally difficult time. By clearly outlining your preferences and making necessary arrangements in advance, you provide your loved ones with guidance and clarity when they need it most.


  • Your Wishes Are Honored - Each person’s funeral preferences are unique, reflecting their individual values, beliefs, and cultural traditions. By planning your own funeral, you can ensure that your final wishes are respected and carried out according to your desires. Whether you prefer a traditional burial, cremation, green burial, or a specific type of service, you have the opportunity to make your preferences known and documented.


  • Financial Considerations - Funeral expenses can place a significant financial burden on grieving families. By pre-planning your funeral arrangements, you can also make financial provisions to cover the costs associated with your end-of-life services. This can include prepaying for funeral expenses or setting aside funds in a designated account to cover these costs.

 

Steps to Planning Your Funeral Arrangements

 

1.        Start the Conversation: Discuss your wishes with your loved ones. While it may be a difficult conversation to initiate, it’s important to ensure that your family understands your preferences and respects your decisions.

2.        Who will be the Executor to make sure your wishes are carried out and the estate has someone in charge to manage the process.

3.        Document Your Preferences: Write down your funeral preferences, including burial or cremation preferences, desired funeral or memorial service details, preferred music or readings, and any specific requests you may have. Who do you want to officiate the service and deliver the eulogy? Anything special to include in the eulogy that you want loved ones to remember you by?

4.        Choose a Funeral Provider: Research and select a reputable funeral home or provider to assist with your funeral arrangements. Consider factors such as location, services offered, pricing, and reputation when making your decision. Determine if the service will be at a funeral home, church, or other venue.

5.        Consider Prepayment Options: If you choose to prepay for your funeral expenses, inquire about prepayment options offered by the funeral home or consider setting up a trust or insurance policy to cover these costs.

6.        Communicate Your Wishes: Make sure your loved ones are aware of your funeral plans and where to find important documents detailing your preferences. Keep copies of these documents in a safe and accessible place.


The Silver Lining: As awkward and uncomfortable as it is, planning for the end of life as well as funeral arrangements is a deeply personal and important process that allows individuals to maintain autonomy and dignity during their final days. By initiating conversations, documenting your preferences, and making practical arrangements, you can ensure that your end-of-life care aligns with your values and wishes for the final farewell. Embracing peace and taking control of your end-of-life journey can provide comfort and reassurance to both you and your loved ones during a challenging time. As mentioned above, also have these conversations with loved ones to determine their plans as well.

 

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