This page provides a list of important things about your own physical and mental well-being to think about during this time.
Some people think end-of-life care is the same thing as palliative care. We’ve discussed palliative care elsewhere on Younity, but end-of-life care is different.
End-of-life care aims to define how you want to be treated as you approach the end of your life. Palliative care supports you with living your life when you are seriously ill – whether you’re having cancer treatment or not.
One of the best ways to plan your end-of life care is with a living will (also sometimes called an 'advance directive'). This is a legally binding document that outlines certain aspects of how you want to be treated when you may not be able to make decisions yourself (for example, if you are unconscious). It will be added to your medical notes.
Documents like this can be difficult to think about, but they can also be a huge help to your family later down the line. With a living will in place, your family won’t have to make difficult decisions about your care.
Living wills help you clearly say what type of care you want. But they can also have instructions for doctors about things like:1
Your desire to be resuscitated or not if you stop breathing, or if your heart stops
An advance statement is different from an advance directive. These help to define the more holistic aspects of your care if you are not able to make decisions yourself.
These include aspects such as:2
Where you want to receive care if you become very ill (for example at home, or in a hospice)
If you want any religious or spiritual beliefs to be reflected in your care (for example if your faith prohibits you from receiving certain treatments, if you would like prayers or last rites at any point, or if your faith states that your funeral must take place within a certain period after your death)
How you like to do things, for example having a shower instead of a bath, sleeping with a certain number of pillows, etc.
Any practical issues, such as who will look after your pets, children, or household
Unlike advance directives, advance statements are not legally binding. So it is a good idea to make sure that you discuss your wishes with your family and have them written down and kept somewhere safe and easy to find.2
Arranging a funeral can be an emotional process, and for some people it can add an extra burden to their grief. So you might want to consider getting in touch with a funeral director and planning your funeral.
Things you may talk about with a funeral director include:
The clothes you would like to wear during your ceremony, how you would like your hair styled, and, if you wear makeup, how you would like this to look
What type of service you would like. If you don’t follow a faith then you may prefer a humanist ceremony, or a simple memorial service or celebration
Any specific readings or music you would like to have at your ceremony
If you would prefer to be buried, cremated, or have your body handled another way
The type of coffin you may like, and urn if you have chosen to be cremated
Where you would like to be buried, or have your ashes scattered
Having a last will and testament in place can be a big help to loved ones after you have passed, as it helps to clearly define who you would like to receive your assets and belongings.
Some people forego making a will, as they believe that their family will automatically receive their belongings after they pass away. However, modern families may have several relationships, or past relationships that can make dividing assets difficult. So defining this beforehand may help to alleviate some of this burden from your loved ones.
It’s also important to remember that just because you have lived with somebody for a long period of time (as a married couple or as somebody in a civil partnership), if you are not legally married or otherwise legally joined, other people may be able to contest your will (argue about who receives what) after you have passed. Again, clearly defining your wishes can help to avoid this.
The information we have provided here is a start, but there are many aspects to end-of-life care and preparation to think about. Ask your healthcare team if your hospital or treatment centre has access to anybody who can guide you in your preparations to ensure you and your family feel as supported and ready as possible for the future during this time.