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5 steps to help you prepare for end of life care

4 min read

5 steps to help you prepare for end of life care
Planning your end of live care now will save you and your loved ones a headache later on. From essential documents to tough conversations, here's how to begin
Nobody likes to think about death; especially not their own. The end of anybody’s life is a profoundly difficult time. Not just for themselves, but also for their loved ones and those trying to care for them in those final days.
One way to make things at least a little easier is to ensure that you get the best possible end of life care. By taking control over your end of life care, you can ease some of the biggest fears and concerns surrounding that difficult time. You can also be certain that you will pass with dignity when that day does arrive.
The idea of planning end of life care is admittedly not a pleasant one. It is something, however, that’s well worth the effort.  The following are five simple steps for preparing for end of life care. 

Take Time to Fully Understand Your Own Circumstances

You need to come to terms with your own circumstances before you can start planning for end of life care. That means first asking yourself some profound and difficult questions. You need to decide what you want to do with the time you have left. You will also want to think about what’s truly important to you and how your end of life care can reflect that.
As well as tackling those critical issues, it’s important to be fully informed about your medical situation. If you have a specific illness, you need to understand how and how quickly it may progress. That means talking to doctors or consultants about future symptoms and how and when they may arise.
That information will help you to get to grips with the shape that your final days may take. From there, you’re ready to start really thinking about preparing for your end of life care.   

Decide What You Really Want From End of Life Care

What is needed and wanted from end of life care is different for every individual. Only you can decide what you truly want, that means making what can seem like incredibly difficult decisions. For instance, you will need to think about what you do and do not want done to try to prolong your life.
If you’re suffering from an illness that cannot be cured, there may be certain treatments available to slow the progress of the illness. Chemotherapy in the case of incurable cancer is a prime example. Such treatments, however, often have significant side-effects and can have a profound impact on your quality of life. 
You’ll also need to think about what you want your end of life care to involve. Do you want to stay at home for as long as possible or is residential care a better option for you? Is it important to you to maintain your hobbies or social life for as long as possible? These are all decisions that it pays to make in advance.   

Have Open & Honest Conversations With Loved Ones

You’re not alone in needing to come to terms with the thought of end of life care. Your loved ones will also find the idea of preparing for your final days very difficult to process. It’s crucial that you have honest and open conversations with them ahead of those final days.
Such conversations will always be difficult and it can be tempting to avoid or delay them. However, it’s important to ensure that friends and relatives all understand the decisions you’ve made about your end of life care.
Sharing your wishes and feelings with loved ones is helpful on many levels. It will get them better prepared emotionally for when your final days arrive and it can give you piece of mind that you have laid down plans for how your family will manage after your death. It will also provide practical help at difficult times. If you suffer a medical crisis and can no longer speak, for instance, your loved ones will know exactly what you do and do not wish to be done.
When talking to your loved ones about end of life care, things can get heated. Differences of opinion can develop and emotions will run high. It’s important for you to explain how you’ve come to your decisions as clearly as possible. That will help your loved ones to understand your perspective and accept your wishes. Even if they are not what they themselves would want for you.     

Make Practical Preparations

So far, we've covered emotional and psychological preparations. There are also practical considerations when preparing for end of life care. Choosing the care professionals who will provide your end of life care is one of the most important. A good first step in this process is to talk to your GP or other healthcare professionals who have treated you.
They will be best placed to point you toward professional carersspecially trained in providing end of life care. You may also wish to research local residential care establishments or hospices.
Certain written documents can also be produced in advance of your end of life care. These can include a will and an advance statement detailing your care preferences. They may also include a lasting power of attorney which can be crucial. This is appointing someone you trust to make medical and/or legal decisions on your behalf when you’re no longer able.   

Don’t Feel Trapped by Earlier Decisions

All of the decisions we’ve discussed so far are difficult ones. That’s why it’s helpful to make them in advance, if you’re able. It doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t change your mind as time passes. Your desires and preferences for end of life care can be fluid.
You can and should feel able to make changes to your plans if and when you want to. That might be in light of a change of circumstances. It may be after hearing a different opinion. It might even simply come about because you’ve had more time to mull over your options.
Whatever the reason, changes to your end of life care preparations are not a problem. The point of making the preparations is to ensure you and your loved ones are as comfortable as possible in your final days. That won’t be the case if there are nagging doubts about the decisions you’ve made.   

Wrapping Things Up

The previous steps can’t claim to make preparing for end of life care easy. Thinking about your own death or that of a loved one will always be one of the toughest things you have to do. Tackling the issue head on and following our advice, though, can at least help make someone’s final days as peaceful and dignified as possible.
Greg Holt is the Chief Marketing Officer at Newcross Healthcare, an independent organisation that provides highly trained staff, clinical expertise, and administrative support to the healthcare sector. He is based in Bristol.
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