Our society as a whole is very averse to discussing final arrangements. Maybe we fear that in doing so we hasten Death’s footsteps to our door. However, no matter how unpleasant the topic, it is a discussion that needs to happen. For a loved one with a life-limiting illness, these arrangements are extremely important. There are seven tasks that you and your loved one will have to review and put into order. The seven most important things you have to straighten out and arrange are: Call list, medical/legal issues, obituary, memorial service, funeral, burial, and/or cremation. Having all of this done will make the time you have left all the more precious because you won’t have to worry.
Loss is hard, even when it is expected. There are so many things that need to be done and during your grief, you will not be at 100 percent. One of the first things most people should talk about is a touchy subject – end-of-life care. This includes things like a living will (also known as an advanced directive), a DNR (do not resuscitate) order, power of attorney, and estate/will planning. Terms are thrown around, but most people do not understand what they mean and why they are important. We will try to briefly explain them here.
Living Will/Advanced Directive: this is a document that a person creates that gives instructions in the type of medical treatment in case the person is no longer able to inform consent. These are the medical care preferences of the individual person and will be upheld by your loved one’s medical team.
Health Care Proxy: Sometimes called a Power of Attorney for Health, this document lets another make health care decisions on behalf of another.
Durable Power of Attorney: Once a person becomes impaired or incapacitated, this document hands over authority to the designated person to manage a person’s estate while your loved one cannot.
Medical Information Release: This document gives health care professionals the ability to share your medical records with the people you have designated.
DNR (Do Not Resuscitate): This order dictates that the patient does not want CPR or any other advanced cardiac life support in the instance their heart stops or they stop breathing.
Call List: When your loved one passes, who do you inform first? Which family members and friends need to know immediately and which can wait for a few days or weeks? Preparing a list ahead of time with names and numbers can help provide a focus. You can also enlist other family or friends to help you make calls. All the information is readily available and you do not have to worry about trying to find numbers and other contact info.
Obituary: If this is something you wish to do, talk to your loved one about what they wish to share. This can include military service, charity work, children and grandchildren, and other information they want.
Funeral: Funerals can be overwhelming emotionally and fiscally. The first step is to find a funeral home that your loved one is comfortable with. Make monetary arrangements early. Other needed arrangements are: musical selections, eulogy, pall bearers, prayers to be read, speakers, and religious officiant.
Memorial Service: If you plan on having one, where do you want it to be held? What photographs or other items do you want to have that reflects your loved one’s life?
Burial: If your loved one wishes to be buried – where? Do they want a headstone or a plaque? What do they want on their resting place?
Cremation: If your loved one wishes to be cremated, what do they want done with their remains? Do they wish to be placed in an urn? Do they want their ashes placed at a special spot?
These are stressful decisions and can feel morbid, but having these decisions out of the way when your loved one receives a life-limiting diagnosis means that you can enjoy the time you have left together, knowing that everything is in place when the time comes to say goodbye.