By Sarah Kessler
It’s in our nature to avoid contemplating or dealing with unpleasant subjects. Death and dying are among those topics for a lot of people. So it’s not unusual for someone to enter their senior years without having established any specific end-of-life plans.
You might want to assist your senior loved one in beginning this difficult task if you are their family member. But it’s possible that you’re equally unsure of where to begin. The advice provided below can help you assist a senior in your life who is beginning the process of end-of-life planning.
1. Make a list of questions to ask them.
Simply asking some of the challenging questions regarding end-of-life planning is a good place to start. You might find it simpler than you anticipated, despite the fact that considering some of these issues can be hard.
Asking a senior loved one about their end-of-life plans can help you get to know them better and get ideas for your own arrangements.
Here are some questions to consider:
- Have you given any thought to your final wishes? (You might discover that they have given this considerable thought, but their plans have not yet been implemented.)
- Have you ever written a last will and testament, a living will, or an advance directive?
- What are your opinions and feelings regarding burial and cremation?
- Which one would you prefer, and how strongly would you choose that option?
- What (which cemetery, where to scatter the ashes, etc.) do you want to be done with your remains?
- If you are unable to make your own medical decisions, who can you rely on to do so?
- Who should carry out your will, according to your wishes?
- Who should care for or adopt your pets?
- What do you want to do with your last few months or years? Aside from in-home care options, think about senior living, hospice, and palliative care facilities.
- What do you hope people will remember you for?
2. Express desires in writing.
A will and advance directive are two examples of the official documents that should eventually be created. But in the interim, it’s a great idea to put your loved one’s wishes in writing.
This makes sure that their wishes are recorded in case something happens to them before that paperwork is in place. It also helps ensure that their ideas are easily recalled when it comes time to create official documents. Having something in writing is always preferable to having nothing at all.
3. Sort important documents according to importance.
There are numerous forms related to end-of-life planning, but not all of them must be finished immediately.
The following are the crucial records that need to be filed:
- Advance directives (a physician’s order for life-sustaining treatment, a living will, a healthcare proxy form, and a HIPAA release)
- Will, also known as a last will and testament
- Trust (to set aside money for a particular use)
4. Assist them in speaking with their physician.
Understanding current medical conditions and how they’re likely to change is crucial for end-of-life planning. By having a conversation with their primary healthcare provider, you can assist the senior in your life in establishing end-of-life plans.
Ask them what they would recommend given your loved one’s current health and the outlook for living alone at home. You can also find out what options are available and when you should start thinking about assisted living or senior living.
A living will, HIPAA release, and healthcare proxy documents can all be prepared with assistance from your loved one’s medical team.
5. Examine their debts, assets and estate.
Making sure that your loved one’s estate is distributed according to their wishes is crucial. You can examine their investments, holdings, and liabilities to get a sense of the big picture and help ensure that happens. From there, you can discuss with them how they want to divide their estate and decide who will be in charge of paying off any debts.
6. Consult a financial planner and an attorney.
Even though you can write your own will and have it legalized, the majority of seniors would benefit from discussing their estate and their goals with a lawyer. Frequently, if you already know what you want to include in the will, it only requires one or two meetings with an attorney to create a simple will.
It might also be beneficial to speak with a financial planner or accountant if your loved one has a sizable or complicated estate or a lot of debt.
Making Your Own Plans for the End of Life
You might start considering your own end-of-life plans as you assist a senior loved one in making theirs. As long as you make sure to keep your plans accurate and up to date, it’s never too early to begin making arrangements for the end of life.
Making your own end-of-life plans is an excellent way to make a senior loved one feel more at ease and supported through the process, too.
Sarah Kessler is a writer at JoinCake.com, an end-of-life planning website with free resources and information on how to estate plan and honor loved ones’ final wishes.