No one really wants to think about what will happen after they pass away, but many caregivers are put in those situations when their loved ones begin to age. Ideally, your loved one should have already prepared a will or an end of life wishes document, but not everyone does.
If you are the sole caregiver of an aging loved one, it’s helpful to know the process of how to ensure your loved one’s wishes are met when they are no longer able to tell you themselves. That’s when you may need to think about end-of-life care, or hospice, as well as planning around those challenging times and providing respite to yourself too. Caregivers often suffer from burnout, because caring through an elderly loved one who can no longer care for themselves can be a full-time job, and it’s exhausting. Many family caregivers may still have their own jobs, lives and children to look after, so finding time to take care of yourself is important too.
Family caregivers are often also tasked to make those tough hospice, or end of life decisions for their loved ones, and it can be overwhelming. Below, we are going to offer you some tips on how to plan for end-of-life care, so that you can be as informed as possible when the time comes that you will have to make those decisions for your loved one to ensure the highest possible standard of care.
Keep reading to learn more.
First, there are some questions you will need to answer about your loved one’s end of life care and wishes.
Ideally, you will have some instructions in the form of a will or other legal document, but sometimes that isn’t always the case.
Think about and ask yourself the following:
• Has your loved one ever talked about what they would want at the end of their lives?
• Have they expressed an opinion about someone else’s end-of-life treatment?
• What were their values and what gave meaning to their lives? Are they still able to participate in those activities? Maybe they wanted to be close to family and making memories together, or perhaps they enjoyed the outdoors and loved nature? Maybe they loved art or learning new things? Take these into consideration when making those end-of-life-care decisions.
Some questions you should be thinking about when it comes to your loved one’s health care are:
• What might you expect to happen within the next few hours, days, months or years if you continue with the current course of treatment for your loved one?
• Will treatment provide a cure, or make their quality of life improve?
• What if you aren’t interested in proceeding with the recommended treatment? What then?
• When should you think about beginning hospice care? Are they able to receive this care at home or will they need to be moved to another facility?
• What medicines can be used to help with pain and discomfort?
• What if they stop eating or are no longer able to eat?
When you start to consider these questions and talk with your family member’s medical providers, it may be a good idea to have someone else with you that you can cross reference notes and have someone to bounce things off of.
One other part of planning for end-of-life care is cultural considerations. Not all cultures are the same with their beliefs and feelings surrounding death and depending on your family’s unique heritage or culture, you may want to consider some of the following questions as well when making those end-of-life care decisions:
• Where we come from, we… (think about what customs are important to you and your family members.)
• In my religion, we… (think about your religious preferences and traditions and use that as a guide to your decision making.)
• In our family, when someone is dying, we prefer… (describe what you hope to happen.)
Care Plan Considerations:
Lastly, you may need to think about the care plan you want for your loved one. Discussing questions such as the ones listed below, may be able to point you in the right direction.
• What is the best place for my aging loved one? Do they want to stay home? Can we accommodate them at home? Should we get them into assisted living, or the hospital based on their care needs?
• What decisions should be included in our care plan? What are the benefits and risks to those decisions?
• How often should we reassess the care plan?
• What is the best way for our family to work with caregivers and healthcare staff?
• Where can we find help paying for this care?
As you can see, planning for end-of-life care can be overwhelming. Remembering that you are not alone when you are going through this and seeking support when you need it will go a long way in helping you figure out these questions. If your aging loved one hasn’t made a plan yet for their wishes, and they are still competent, you may want to encourage them to do so as soon as possible before they are not able to do it themselves anymore.