How to Plan Ahead Now for Later Life
As another new year begins you should consider adding a plan for later life to your list of goals and resolutions for 2022. Studies have shown that people who have planned in advance for the end of their lives spend less time in the hospital, receive fewer intensive treatments, and have greater quality of life when they reach their final days. In addition, their loved ones experience less stress, anxiety, and depression during those challenging days.
At this time more Americans than ever are completing estate plans and healthcare directives, which will help ensure that their wishes are carried out when they approach the end of life. The best time to do advance care planning is right now, as soon as the thought occurs to you. Then you will have your choices in writing no matter what happens, since life has its own set of uncertainties. The wishes you express now can always be updated whenever your health status or your preferences change.
Here are some steps to get your own planning started:
1. Set up a will and estate plan
It’s important to meet with your financial manager and attorney to protect your assets for the future. Even if it seems too early to make these decisions now, getting your preferences in writing is essential to avoid complications and hassles for your loved ones in the future. Again, you can change these documents at any time if new circumstances arise.
2. Choose a healthcare proxy
No matter your age or health status, you should designate someone you trust to make healthcare decisions for you if you are ever unable to speak for yourself. This person will be responsible for understanding your wishes and making sure they are carried out, so it’s important to choose someone capable of fulfilling this role. Talk to the person you’ve chosen to make sure they are willing and also choose two other people who can fill in if your first choice is unavailable for some reason.
3. Think about your preferences
Spend some time contemplating the healthcare decisions that could arise at the end of your life, but don’t get lost in the details. You can’t possibly imagine all of the potential scenarios that might occur in the future, but you can ask yourself some general questions. Ideally, where would like to be at the end of life and who would you like to be with you? How would you feel about being kept alive on life support such as a ventilator? Answering these questions now to the best of your ability will help you inform your healthcare proxy of the choices you would prefer if a drastic emergency arises.
4. Learn about care options for advanced illness
Get informed now about the benefits of utilizing palliative care and hospice care for serious and advanced illness. Find out what types of care are available in your community and learn more at these websites: www.palliativedoctors.org and www.caringinfo.org.
5. Obtain the Advance Directive Form for your state
This is the legal document you will need to complete in order to make your wishes known and designate your healthcare proxy. The form varies from state to state so make sure you know the requirements for your state. You can also choose the Five Wishes form, which is legally valid in most states and can travel with you if you live in multiple places. Visit the website www.fivewishes.org to learn more about it.
6. Talk to your healthcare provider
Your personal medical provider can help you make decisions and offer you advice on any health issues you are currently facing. If you are receiving medical care on a regular basis your provider should be informed of your wishes and also have a copy of your Advance Directive on file.
7. Talk to your loved ones
This final step is perhaps the most important of all. When your loved ones know and understand your wishes for later life they are much more likely to make sure those wishes are carried out. In addition conflicts can be avoided if each person hears directly from you what your preferences are, rather than trying to figure out what you would want in the middle of a crisis.
While it may seem unnecessary or too early to think about these steps, studies have shown that people who complete this type of planning experience greater peace of mind as they grow older and face later life. Consider reviewing these plans every 5 years or whenever you experience a change in your health status. The evidence is clear that the time you spend now to plan ahead will help ensure that your wishes are met and your loved ones avoid unnecessary conflict as you reach the last days of your life.