What is End of Life Care & Planning: Options for the Unexpected
2020 has made all of us ask ourselves hard questions; such as “What plans do I have in place for my healthcare?” and “Who will take care of me if I get sick?” A new study from West Virginia University and the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management shows COVID-19 created a new surge of questions surrounding end of life care & planning. Focusing on the first half of 2020, the study shows that calls to the West Virginia Center for End-of-Life Care tripled during that time. Callers wanted to know about medical directives and other planning required in case of an unexpected illness or death.
These are always good questions to have the answers to—particularly for people of a certain age or risk group. The pandemic is not a welcome motivator but we can use it to ensure we are all protected against the unexpected. As a Medical Doctor (Rehab & Trauma) and Physician Life Care Planner, my focus lies in injury and disability documentation, rehabilitation, and restoration. I am passionate about helping people go from “Pieces to Peace”. So, although end of life care & planning is not my primary area of expertise, I can, however, provide the necessary resources for elder care and end-of-life care instructions. Below we’ve gathered the top tips from websites I personally recommend. Please read through this post and then spend some time on the linked sites for more information.
End of Life Care Planning: The Basics
One of my recommended websites is prepareforyourcare.org, which offers this overview of the necessary steps:
- Have a voice in YOUR medical care
- Talk with your doctors and other health care providers
- Give your family and friends peace of mind
- Fill out an advance directive form to put your wishes in writing
The website is loaded with free research, downloadables, and videos. There is also COVID-19-specific guidance if that is what you are looking for.
The first question to ask yourself is “What IS my plan?” We recommend beginning conversations on this topic with your loved ones—and doing so as soon as possible. A spouse or your children can provide both comfort and assistance in formulating a plan for any eventuality. Keep in mind that the way you feel now may change as more information is gathered. An end-of-life care plan, by nature, must be flexible.
Get An Advance Directive or Living Will
Requirements for these documents vary from state to state, so the best place to inquire is with your personal physician. They can get the necessary forms to you—and you likely won’t need a lawyer to get them completed. Once they’ve been signed they can remain on file at the doctor’s office, providing peace of mind even when not in use.
Once you reach retirement age it is also a good idea to research local care facilities, hospitals, etc. Many of our patients consult with a financial planner to make sure their money is in order. And finally, don’t be afraid to be very clear about your choices regarding things such as resuscitation, hospice care, and a medical proxy to make decisions for you if you become incapacitated.
What is your plan, who can you trust, and what can you do today to get the ball rolling; in these uncertain times it is best to know the answers to all three of these queries. Below we’ve added some additional resources for end-of-life care guidance:
The National Institute on Aging