Put End-of-Life planning on your winter to-do list
by Cheryl Cottrill, End of Life Doula
As summer turns to fall and we begin to think about our winter projects, I’d encourage you to put end-of-life planning on your list. We spend a great deal of energy planning for weddings, births, graduations and every other life event, but somehow we ignore the very last big life event and hence many people go unprepared into their last months, weeks and days. End-of-Life planning can and should be done long before you are facing a life-limiting illness. It should be done in your 20s and then reviewed each year to make sure life growth hasn’t changed your views on what you would want your end-of-life to look like. Don’t panic, if you haven’t done an end-of-life plan now is the perfect time.
End-of-life planning is much more than just having a Will and Power of Attorney, although I encourage you to visit your lawyer and get these done if you have not already done so. Here is a few items from our to-do list used by our End of Life Doulas to help people work through their end-of-life plans.
Will – who will you name as your Executor? Does your Executor know where your Will is located?
Powers of Attorney for Property and Personal Care – who will you name as your Substitute Decision Maker(s) – Does your Substitute Decision Maker(s) know where your Power of Attorney is located?
Digital Will – have you recorded your passwords for your phone, computer, email and social media – does your loved one know where to find them?
Have you left the location of your safety deposit box and key with your important papers?
Have you pre-arranged your funeral or celebration of life? Do you want to be buried, cremated or do you have something else in mind?
What would you like put on your marker/tombstone?
Who would you like to give your eulogy?
Who do you want to be notified of your death? Is the list of names and contact details with your important papers?
Where would you prefer to die?
Who do you want with you in the room during your final hours?
Is there something comforting that you would like with you while you are dying?
Is your family aware of your end-of-life plans and wishes?
This list should help you think about what things are important to you and what you would want to include in your plan. You can hand write your plan or type it up on your computer. You can make it as plain or pretty as you wish. All that really matters is that you devote some time to really thinking about what you would want at end-of-life, write it down and then share it with the people in your life that would need to know, should you be unable to speak for yourself.
Yes, it takes some soul searching, but I think the winter months are a perfect time to reach inward and really give our end-of-life plan the time and thought it deserves. It is your very last plan and one that will lead you into the end-of-life you wish to have, rather than one that is prescribed for you because people didn’t know what your wishes were.
Many people have talked about the peace that end-of-life planning provides in their lives, allowing them to live well knowing their wishes have been thought out, written down and shared with family. It allows you to get on with the important things in life. How many times have you said “we must update our Wills or Powers of Attorney, or perhaps pre-plan our funeral” and it hangs over your head. Imagine what life would be like for you with that burden off your shoulders and to be able to live life fully without having to think about what would happen if you could no longer speak for yourself. Family will not have to guess what you would want when having to make difficult decisions about your care - they will know exactly what needs to be done to fulfill your wishes. What a beautiful last gift to give to your family!
At Huron Shores Hospice we have four trained End of Life Doulas who would be happy to confidentially speak to you about your end-of-life plan, if you need some help completing it. This service is provided free of charge and is funded by the generous donations from our community. Should you wish to speak to an End of Life Doula please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 519-368-7762 and we will be happy to connect you with a Doula to help you through this important process.
Remember it is never too early or too late to complete this beautiful gift to your family!