End of Life Planning
While it’s something most of us may not wish to think about, the inevitability of coming to the end of our life is something we should really all spend more time in preparation for.
End of Life Planning your options
Back in the time of the ancient Greeks, the stoics had a very practical approach to the end of life, pretty much suggesting that you should remind yourself every day that it might be your last on earth. So you should live “for the moment”, while at the same time ensuring you have everything in order for when the inevitable time of death arrives.
You may be concerned about the issues around palliative care, retaining dignity or spiritual matters as you come to the end of your life – see our page on end of life care for more on this.
Or you may simply want to make sure your loved ones don’t have to suffer financially through having to pay for your funeral out of their own pocket. (More info in our Funeral Planning section).
One thing that is becoming increasingly important nowadays is to consider developing an “end of life document pack”. The idea behind this is that it’s a place you can bring together all the relevant documents that your loved ones may need to deal with in order to sort out your personal affairs.
We almost all have so many different bank accounts, pension schemes, share certificates etc that it can be a bewildering and potentially impossible task for our executors to sort it all out adequately once we’re not around.
And don’t forget the digital element of your everyday life activities. It’s rare nowadays to find someone who doesn’t have online access to their bank account, insurance policies, or even memberships of organisations or social media accounts like Facebook.
Developing a “master list” of all these online logins can certainly help save some heartache in the future for your loved ones – and may even help you in the meantime by providing a readily-accessible way to remember all your passwords!
Another issue you might need to consider is if you have any pets. You wouldn’t want to see them left alone with nobody to look after them, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead and make people aware of your intentions.
See our wills and probate section for more info on this type of end of life planning.
Whatever your thoughts, it’s definitely worth spending some time contemplating how to have as good an end of life as you possibly can, which means you should really start to plan for it well ahead of time, if possible.
End of Life Care
As we get older, we inevitably come nearer to the end of our life than to the beginning. It’s a simple fact that our bodies will become weaker and less able to cope with the stresses and strains of everyday life, so it may well be that end of life care is something we need to consider – either for ourselves or for a loved one / someone we care for.
There are many options for end of life care, including care homes and long term care at home.
You may also require medical assistance, with End of Life Care often being the phrase used to refer to the type of care you might receive in a hospice, or through having palliative care at home. The NHS has a range of suggestions for this type of care, in its End of Life Care guide.
One of the things people often suggest they are most concerned about when it comes to end of life care, is the potential lack of dignity they suffer in their treatment by other people. This is an especially prominent fear for people who end their life in residential care homes or hospices, where they have little control over what happens around them.
So you’ll want to make sure the care home you choose has a good reputation and will provide the right sort of assistance for the care you need, while ensuring your dignity and personal space is respected.
If you are living with a terminal illness, it may be that you spend some time in a hospice. These are usually set up well to care for people in the final stages of life and should provide a sympathetic and comfortable environment for your end of life care.
Palliative care at home, or hospice at home services, are becoming increasingly popular. These allow you to remain in your familiar surroundings, while still receiving the necessary medical attention and other forms of assistance you require for your end of life care. You may, of course, benefit from long term care at home for many years before it becomes end of life care.
Bereavement is likely to be one of the most painful emotions you experience. Although it may be something which might knock you for six at any stage in your life, as you get older, the chances of your being affected by the loss of a friend or relative increase.
In the immediate period after a loved one’s death, you are likely to be surrounded by an outpouring of sympathy and offers of help and support from many friends and relatives.
After that initial reaction, however, the offers may become fewer and farther between – leaving you feeling especially helpless and, above all, lonely.
This is the time when it is good to know that you do not need to be alone. There are very many support groups focused on the complex and emotionally draining issues of bereavement.
In the age of the internet, of course, reaching out to the support you need is as easy as an online search, a simple request for help, and access to the counselling and online forums often tailored for someone in a position similar to your own.
Naturally, each person’s response to bereavement is unique and no one goes through quite what you might be going through. But that doesn’t mean you have to weather the pain of grief all alone. Support groups are not there to tell you how you must feel or what you must do – they exist to offer a sympathetic ear, suggestions about what other people may have found helpful and, as often as not, an online forum or contacts with others who may have experienced a similar type of bereavement.
The website Support Line, for example, stresses the enormous comfort and support you may derive simply by talking about your bereavement and the loved one you have lost as well as remembering to look after your own physical health.
Where to find help
The online charity Much Loved publishes a helpful listing of many different support groups for those who have been bereaved.
In addition to resources offering general support – such as Bereavement UK, Compassionate Friends and Cruse Bereavement Care, Much Loved also lists groups according to the type of loss you may have suffered:
- if you have lost a child during pregnancy or shortly after birth, for example, you might want to contact the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity, Sands, or help group for Babies born too Soon, too Small, too Sick, Bliss;
- following the death of a child or sibling, the relevant support groups are the Child Bereavement Charity (CBC) and Grief Encounter;
- in the wake of the death of your partner, you might want to get in touch with Merry Widow, or the widowed and young group, WAY;
- if you have been affected by someone committing suicide, you may contact Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBBS); and
- if you are struggling with the trauma of losing someone as the victim of murder or manslaughter, you may find help at Support after Murder & Manslaughter (SAMM).
Finally, while you may never completely cure your heartache, if you recognise any symptoms of the onset of depression, make sure to consult your GP.