We often think of death and dying as separate from everyday life. However, it is best for the well-being of ourselves and our loved ones that we consider our end-of-life wishes now, and prepare for the possibility of taking care of another person in their end-of-life.
Defining the End-of-Life Experience
We cannot predict what condition we will be in immediately before our passing. Therefore, it is vital that we make important end-of-life decisions while we can to ensure that the end-of-life care we receive speaks to our personal values. That way, we will be certain that the way in which we leave aligns with how we lived.
Studies have found that when a meaningful conversation about end-of-life choices has occurred, surviving loved ones experience less guilt and an overall easier grieving period. Even if the conversation feels uncomfortable, your loved ones will be grateful you took the time to express your wishes.
Before making any decisions, learn what some common end-of-life care terms mean and how they can apply to your situation. This may help you determine if you need to write a living will or ensure you understand what a DNR is, for example.
If you are diagnosed with a condition, consider conducting your own research regarding the disease, its progression, and available treatments. This will help you decide what kinds of treatment you would like to receive and for how long.
As a patient, you have certain medical rights guaranteed to you by federal and state law. These may influence your decisions for declining further treatment, determining who will be told about your condition, and various other considerations.
It’s natural not to know how to start a conversation with your loved ones about your own end-of-life care. This guide will help you understand the kind of care you would like to receive as well as how to express these wishes to your loved ones.
A healthcare proxy can make medical decisions for you if you are unable to, and is listed in your advance directive. The link below is another guide to help you select this person with resources for creating your advance directive at the end.
By now, you have learned a lot of information about end-of-life care. The next step is to get your preferences down in writing. This toolkit will help you make choices for a variety of scenarios as well as provide addendums for your advance directive.
Being Present in End-of-Life Care
All of us will likely find ourselves as caregivers for a loved one, which is a difficult but rewarding role. Many caregivers state feeling a greater sense of purpose from their experience. If nothing else, being a caregiver will reassure you that your loved one was surrounded by love and compassion when it mattered most.
It is likely that those around you have similar desires for their end-of-life as you. One of the few truly great things we can do in our lives is care for others in a way that offers tranquility and rest at the end of life. It is the ultimate way to thank your loved one for everything they have done for you throughout their life.
You may feel unprepared to be someone’s caregiver, and that’s okay. There are several resources to help you get ready. Below is a link to help you prepare to care for someone in end-of-life and information on what to expect.
You may feel overwhelmed by the many needs of your loved one and your role in their care. Click the link below for resources on how to care for individuals with certain conditions, checklists for doctor visits, and other tips and information.
If you are someone’s primary caregiver, it is likely you will be with them when they pass away. You should be aware of the common signs that indicate that death is near so that you can provide care that focuses on relieving pain and discomfort.
You deserve to take care of yourself even as you care for others. Below is a link with caregiver-specific information on how to care for themselves and what signs of diminished personal health to look out for in yourself while acting as a caregiver.
Often, the hardest part of caring for someone in end-of-life is after they pass away. Below is a grief journal to help you reflect on your feelings. Print it out and complete it at your own pace, preferably by hand to help focus your thoughts and emotions.
If you find you are still struggling with your loss, employees have access to an employee assistance program that can offer support. Speaking with your family members, friends, and spiritual leaders may also help you feel less alone in your grief.
A Part of Life
Whether you are preparing for end-of-life or caring for someone in this stage, you may find that your personal belief system is reinforced or even challenged. Such feelings are natural given the situation and the immense changes you may be experiencing. The resources provided above are meant to equip you with practical tools to face these changes by asking you to evaluate your personal values. Whether your spirituality stems from religion, meditation, or philosophy, we hope this resource helps you view end-of-life and caregiving as a part of life as important as the act of living itself.
“Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.” -Maruki Murakami