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Preparing for the End of Life: Essential Questions and Conversations

An elderly man lays in bed while an elderly woman places her hand on his for comfort

The end of life is frightening and uncertain. When you hear the news from your doctor that curative treatments are no longer a viable option, you may ask yourself, “what now?” 

All of these emotions are valid. It’s hard to grasp the idea of life coming to a close, even if you’ve lived a long life.

If a medical professional has told you that you have less than six months to live, you have an opportunity to begin preparing for the end of life. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all end-of-life planning checklist we can give you. With more than 20 years of service, we still don’t have all of the answers, but we may have a few suggestions that can help you accomplish your goals in the time that you have left.

Preparing for a Good End of Life: Asking the Right Questions

For this discussion, we’re going to break down end-of-life preparation into two categories: questions to ask and conversations to have. 

Whenever you are preparing for the end of life, you will need to ask some serious questions. Here are four inquiries you may need to make when planning:

  1. What is my estimated timeline? The amount of time that your doctor gives you will determine how you should go about the rest of your goals. While the timeline can change, it gives you a starting point to plan around.
  2. What are my options for care? Your options for care will look different depending on the former question. Many patients with life-limiting illnesses choose to stay at home and receive hospice care from a trusted provider. Some move into hospice homes where they can receive more intensive care. Those who are already in advanced care facilities may remain in that space to make sure they are comfortable.
  3. What do I want/need to accomplish? What conversations should you have? Are there any advanced directives you still need to address? This question addresses the need to tie loose ends in your life to help those who will survive you.
  4. What do I consider to be a good or successful death? This is a question that only you can answer. One study on defining a good death had mixed results. Some common threads have included: preferences in the dying process, a pain-free status and emotional well-being. Write down some attributes that you think will help you close your life on your terms.

End of Life Planning Checklist: Essential Conversations

When preparing for the end of life, you need to initiate conversations with your healthcare providers and loved ones to discuss your physical, mental and emotional well-being. Some of these conversations will be emotional, and others will be more strategic as you make plans before your passing.

Preparation

Preparation conversations will help you and your loved ones put everything in order by the time of your passing. These discussions aren’t easy, even for healthcare professionals. In one study, only 18 percent of primary healthcare physicians said they had discussed the patient’s wishes with them. Medical, financial and post-life plans all need to be made. You will need to discuss items such as:

  • Who will be my primary caretaker? 
  • Will I stay at home, or will I need to move to a specialized facility?
  • Do I have all of my end-of-life documentation in place? If not, who do I need to work with to complete it?

If you haven’t started yet, funeral planning is essential. Discuss in detail with your loved ones your wishes for this event and your final disposition. We understand these conversations may be difficult, but we can’t understate how they can help you and your loved ones feel better and lift a significant burden off your shoulders. 

Reconciliation

When you are dealing with a life-limiting illness, you may be tempted to be bitter and angry due to your situation. Anger is a part of dealing with the end of life; it’s natural to feel like things are being taken away from you too soon. 

However, this is the best opportunity to reach out to friends, family or other individuals who may have had long-standing disagreements or other conflicts with you. Research on forgiveness and palliative care revealed that reconciliation could reduce stress and promote the health of individuals with life-limiting illnesses. 

It doesn’t mean it will be easy. You may need to contact a mediator or counselor to resolve the conflict peacefully. These discussions can help lift the burden from you and allow you to live your final days with hope and joy. It’s never too late to talk with that person.

Salutation

The best way to prepare for a good end of life is to have those final conversations with your loved ones. Whether over the phone or in person, telling those you will be leaving you love them is essential. It’s okay to be sad or scared about death. You don’t have to put on a brave face for these conversations, but you need to have them.

If you’re looking through your options for care and need an excellent hospice care provider, contact Seasons Hospice today. We have a staff of experienced, caring professionals who will help you make the most of your final days and prepare for the end of life.

“A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death better than the day of birth.”

  • Ecclesiastes 7:1

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Seasons Hospice is an independent community health care provider, not a large for-profit organization. We would not be able to offer our hospice services if we did not have the support of passionate community members who understand the importance of cost-free hospice care. To simplify the hospice process for patients and families, we rely on the generosity of our donors.