2022 is here, and the GDEP blog will now feature the occasional guest blog post. You will not only hear from me but now also from colleagues and also GDEP students. I think it is important to spotlight a diversity of perspectives, interests and insights from end of life workers with a range of strengths, and I look forward to many interesting contributions over the coming months.

Today we have the pleasure of hearing from USA-based Hazel Bridges of AgingWellness.org who will offer a glimpse into the planning priorities of planning when a terminal illness has been diagnosed.

NB: As Hazel is in the USA today’s links will help readers from that part of the world – for readers in Australia and the rest of the world (ROW) use the link type to search for the equivalent in your own country/region.

A picture of two people holding hands. One person is wearing hospital scrubs and has a gold wedding ring on their left hand. The other appears to be standing to the side of the bed. There is sunlight on their clasped hands.
Thorough advance planning frees you up to focus on your person in their final stage of life.

If you or a loved one have recently found out that you are entering the final stages of life, you are probably overwhelmed. Surviving family members are often left to make end-of-life arrangements, which is all the more difficult amid anticipatory grief. However, preparing before an expected death can guarantee that you get everything in line for your final wishes, financial stability, and health care choices. This structure can provide you with comfort in a difficult time and ensure your loved ones are taken care of.

Think about your home

When you or a loved one have received a terminal illness diagnosis, it is time to start considering what you will do with the home. Many people choose to sell their loved ones’ homes after they die, and if you go this route, you will need to start preparing the house for the market.

For example, evaluate the property for any essential repairs or updates needed. You will want to address any issues with the roof, electricity, plumbing, and structural components of the home. One way to figure out what types of updates could benefit the home sale is to research your local housing market to see the features of other houses.
In short, you want the property to be as impressive as possible when buyers come to look at it (either in person or online). However, you will want to consider your budget and not invest in any upgrades that will not yield a healthy ROI.

Get your legal documents together

You or your loved one will need to designate family members or friends to be your decision-makers. Once you know who these people are, you will need to ensure that they have access to all of your essential legal documents. There are many documents to prepare, including (but not limited to):

● Living Will (also known as Advanced Directives)

● Last Will and Testament (or simply known as a Will)

● Trust documents

● Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA)

● Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA)

● Death Certificate of a Spouse

● Marriage Certificate

● Divorce Decrees

● Prenuptial Agreement

● Life Insurance Policies

You will also want to make sure your decision-makers can access all of your account numbers and passwords, digital assets, personal contacts, and memorial service guidance.

Modify Your Financial Documents

Even if you drafted a Will many years ago, your life circumstances might have changed since then. If you have had more children or grandchildren, undergone a divorce, or your wishes have simply changed over time, you will need to update your Will. And you will want to make sure that you assess your beneficiary designations on your bank accounts, annuities, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies.

Remember to keep paying your life insurance premiums to keep your policies active. And if you or your loved one are unable to make financial decisions, the agent appointed in your EPOA can take the reins and make any necessary changes.

Tackle Your Healthcare Decisions

If you choose to have an HCPOA, appoint someone you can trust to stay true to your health care wishes. Conflicts often arise in end-of-life situations, and your HCPOA must be able to control their emotions and make logical decisions in difficult times. Give your HCPOA agent as much guidance as possible in advance, and keep the HCPOA Form current and remove any conflicting documents by destroying them.
You cannot remove the pain of a terminal illness diagnosis, but you can begin preparing for your final stages of life, which will relieve some stress from you and your loved ones. Consider the information and advice above as you get a plan together, and keep researching other ways to help everyone involved make sound decisions while coping with grief. That way, you will know that your final wishes, financial decisions, and health care choices are all being honoured.

Would you like to read more helpful content or learn about how we support the dying and their caregivers? Visit gdep.com.au today.

For readers wishing to contact Hazel please click here.