How to Plan for End of Life Care

Caring for an elderly parent or arranging for your own end of life care can be a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, it’s incredibly important to be candid about the situation you are faced with, but on the other, it’s not easy to square up against the mortality of your loved one or yourself. As a caregiver or patient, it’s essential to approach discussions over health with a positive but knowing attitude about what the future holds. This is the only way to make decisions that will create good, healthy outcomes for yourself and your family.

Consider your finances.

No one wants to discuss the finances of someone nearing death, but the truth is that this is an important conversation to have in order to avoid any friction later. Understanding the makeup of a loved one’s financial profile, including assets, insurance policies, savings, and debts, can help defray legal issues when it comes time to disburse these belongings after their passing.

One choice that is also important in deciding whether to keep up life insurance payments. If seniors or people with a terminal illness need extra financial support, it’s possible to cash in on the face value, or death benefit, that is released upon their passing, or to trade this in for one of many available viaticals to free up the capital now. A viatical settlement is a cash payment and a great way to create liquidity today that can be used to pay for medical bills, mortgage payments, or even a vacation. Instead of pushing the payout back, it may serve you well to take a viatical settlement instead in order to utilize the capital today for cash flow freedom or to cover the cost of your current bills or other expenses.

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Part of this financial discussion, of course, should be in will planning. End of life will be writing is an essential component of a person’s time here with loved ones; even though everyone should navigate the trials and uncertainties of life with the support of a will, most of us do not. A will is a simple document that provides for the transfer of assets and instructions on closing accounts in the event of a person’s death. Unfortunately, without a will, assets like your home, commodity portfolios like stocks, bonds, and precious metals, or equity in private business ventures may go into probate and take court procedures in order to change hands to the rightful new owner. While there is little risk that your home titled in your husband’s name will be taken away from you, it could take months to have the title transferred if he does not leave a will expressing this desire. Having a clear will allows for any beneficiaries to receive their inheritance without legal troubles.

Likewise, a will is an important document in short-circuiting fighting between siblings after the passing of both parents. When we die we often leave behind many assets that we want to pass on to our beneficiaries for their financial empowerment or for sentimental reasons. Without a will outlining these desires, siblings are left to their own devices while navigating what they hope was your wishes. By outlining exactly what you expect each of them to take of your belongings, you can suck the oxygen out of any potential clashes that may occur. Siblings fight over inheritance far too often, and the attachment to your memory of these battles can cause irrevocable rifts that persist for most or all of their adult lives. Having this discussion about your finances can diffuse the situation before it even presents itself, and encourage siblings to have more empathy for one another as they navigate the complicated time after a parent’s passing.

Discuss your care options.

End of life planning also requires a commitment to healthcare needs. You may need empathy and a helping hand to guide you through your day to day activities, or you might need full-time assistance to achieve continued wellness in pursuit of even the simplest tasks. It’s not the happiest discussion by any means, but getting realistic about your care needs is the only way to ensure that they are met.

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Some seniors will require in-home care services. These may include full or part-time skilled nurses or other clinicians that come to your home and help you through your day, from bathing and breakfast in the morning to tucking you in at night before arriving the next day to start again. These home care services are very inclusive and are typically reserved for only the most severely hindered people in need of assistance. Most of us will never require this level of help. For many, moving in with children is a great way to get the little push you need every day but without the full hands-on help that a health care provider gives, that can leave some in a new state of lethargy.

One aspect that’s important to remember is that you should do as much as you possibly can on your own. If you rely too heavily on your family caregiver or nurse to dress or feed or bathe you when you don’t need it you may fall into a pattern of depression and lose these freedoms altogether. Discussing your needs with family members and with medical professionals is a great way to determine exactly the kind of care you require while also identifying the places in which you need no help. A good home care service also acts doubles almost as physical therapy or occupational therapy sessions. Your nurse or child will help you manage the tasks that are too difficult for you to complete on your own and also challenge you to stretch for greater mobility or longer cognitive function in order to keep your mind and body active and happy and healthy. This balance is essential to keeping you upbeat and healthy — it really isn’t just about your physical wellbeing.

Talk about your mental health.

Speaking with a DC psychiatrist (or a psychotherapist wherever you’re living) is also something that may give you great benefit. Your overall health is more than just about your physical wellbeing. Emotional problems or behavioral health needs are more detrimental to long term functionality than a sprained ankle or sore knee. In fact, temporary setbacks in your physical wellbeing are often triggered for longer moving downswings in mental health. As we age, it takes longer to recover from injuries or pains in our bodies and so we become more irritable about the recovery time. It becomes a vicious cycle in which physical distress leads to mental anguish, which creates anxiety to move, further exacerbating the underlying injury.

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Instead of allowing this to persist, seeking the help of a mental health professional is a great way to root out the underlying feelings of stress that can accompany these other features of senior living. Of course, you can always talk to loved ones instead if you are anxious about speaking with a psychotherapist. The important part is to simply get talking about how you are feeling. Also, your insurance policy likely covers doctor’s visits for mental health care, so you are covered under our treatment plan and won’t need to break the bank just to speak with someone about how you feel. Psychologists can be a great choice in these instances, they are there to listen and to provide feedback designed to get you thinking in a judgment-free space. Often times, they help you solve problems on your own simply by listening and guiding your thought process toward a solution. The power of mental health services is truly transformative and must be a part of your end of life wellness and care planning.

Planning for passing on can feel surreal or scary, but it’s a natural part of life. Approach it with confidence and rational thinking in order to account for everything you will need to plan for.