Questions To Ask To Prepare Your End Of Life Plan

questions to ask to prepare your end of life plan

One of the biggest commonalities between nearly all of our hospice clients, particularly those that are 70 years old or younger, is the shock that they have an end of life prognosis. While we all know we’re going to die someday, most of us think of that someday as far into the future. This means our culture isn’t preparing for the end of life the way it should be.

It’s never too early to begin your end of life plan. Doing so eases the way for yourself and your family, and it helps you to live the best quality of life while you can.

Preparing Your End Of Life Plan: 10 Powerful Questions

Your hospice team is always available to help you move through these and other powerful questions aimed at preparing your end of life plan. Don’t be afraid to ask them to support you and your loved ones through this necessary process. We’ve divided the questions by domains, to help you dig more deeply into your values, beliefs, and desires to ensure you’re making end of life decisions that align with your truest needs and wishes.  The more specific you can be the better as there may come a time when you aren’t responsive or able to communicate what you want. In that case, these instructions become essential for your hospice caregivers and family members as they strive to honor your wishes throughout your end of life care.

The Physical

What is it you need to feel physically comfortable, especially when you become chair and bed-bound?

Things to consider here are:
  • Your favorite PJs, cozy clothes, socks, blankets, etc.
  • Music playlists
  • Ambient comfort, such as candles (they can be battery operated if you’re in a hospital or medical facility), essential oils, dim lights, no TV or TV on a specific station, and so on.

Do you have a medical directive in place?

Many people on hospice opt to have a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order in effect, which is boldly displayed on their refrigerator and might even be above their bed. Others do not. There are also cases where the hospice patient has a DNR order but their family panics and EMTs wind up resuscitating and transporting the patient to the hospital.  Your clear, advanced directive is essential in the latter experience because those who have a copy can use it to share your wishes with attending medical personnel. If you haven’t done this already, we recommend visiting the Five Wishes website, which is a simple way to get started. Your completed documents are considered legal in the state of Maine and most other states. Share copies with anyone who should have one: 
  • Physician
  • Hospice team
  • Spouse
  • Close family members
  • A close friend or two
You can also visit mainehealth.org for more information about Advanced Directives and the types of things to think about as you craft one that represents your preferences.

The Mental 

Have you been clear in your legacy and how you’d like to be remembered (or how you’d like to remember others)?

Preparing your end of life plan offers the opportunity to perform a retrospective of sorts. What is your legacy? And, when we say “legacy,” we aren’t talking about a business, street, or town square statue with your name on it. Are you leaving a legacy of a kind person? As the best hot chocolate maker ever? The neighborhood vegetable grower? The one who always left notes for those they loved?  Reflect on your legacy and consider if there are any actions you can take to put this into physical form for the ones you’ll leave behind. If this requires acts of reconciliation, that’s entirely possible. Tackle what you can in person, by phone, or by email. If reconciliation feels impossible in that way, or the person has died, write a letter and perform some type of ritual to let it go. You’ll be amazed how much mental space is freed up this way

Do you have your financial and possession affairs in order?

Then, there is the practical aspect of mental preparation and legacy, which is streamlining the redistribution of your beloved possessions once you’ve passed. If you don’t have time or energy to work with a legal estate planner, have a neutral party help you draft a written will that you sign and date, and then share this with a trusted person or two.  The more you can use masking tape or a pencil to mark “who gets what” of your favorite things, or things you feel are just right for a loved one, the easier it is for your heirs and beneficiaries.

The Emotional 

What do you need to feel less anxious about your passing?

The last months and weeks of your life should be as peaceful as possible, which means now is the time to begin addressing any existing anxiety, fear, or stress in your life. The more you feel you’ve “put your affairs in order,” the freer you’ll be in your mind and your emotions.  Make a list of the worries, concerns, or fears you have, and then share them with your hospice nurse, social worker, or chaplain for support in how to move forward.

Have you grieved your diagnosis and pending death?

So much of the emotional angst felt by hospice and palliative care patients are The Grief of the life they thought they would have but didn’t. Or the life they thought they would be able to live, and can’t. This is powerful and these tender emotions deserve to be processed and expressed with the right individual or group.  Speak to your hospice team about the free grief support available to you.

The Spiritual

Are you giving yourself the time and space to process your experience?

Be careful of the tendency to “fill the calendar up” with rich and meaningful things in the days or weeks you have feeling relatively healthy or “okay.” We recommend striking a balance between lots of free time to process your experience, life reflections, and the emotions that come through your heart and mental landscape.  Keeping yourself busy “making the most of life,” can backfire if you aren’t balancing your time with the space to reflect, reconcile, plan, heal, and so on. This often requires a spiritual approach, even if you don’t consider yourself to be a particularly religious or spiritual person.

Would speaking with a chaplain help you sort through your thoughts, fears, or complex emotions?

Our hospice chaplains are very special individuals. While all are ordained in specific spiritual traditions, they are 100% open-hearted and respect religious, spiritual, and god-less perspectives and conversations. Regardless of your beliefs – or lack thereof – our chaplains are happy to hear about your concerns without judgment, pressure, or expectation. If you prefer to speak to a spiritual advisor or leader of a specific denomination, our well-connected chaplains can reach out to their community contacts and find just the right person to sit with you.

The Practical

Do you have your practical end of life plan complete? 

Have you made arrangements with a local home or commercial funeral center yet? We understand it’s not easy, but waiting too long often means not having the energy or the ability to share your preferences.

What would you like to have done for your body when you die? 

There are so many options, and there’s no need to whisk it off right away. Some of our patients:
  • Plan their vigil (what they want in place when they’re actively transitioning into death)
  • Make plans to have their body washed and dressed by their loved ones
  • Arrange home vigils before having their body transported to the funeral home or crematorium
  • Plan a living memorial and/or have a hand in planning their celebration of life 
Your family and loved ones will be in the midst of grief and having to make plans from scratch are stressful. The more you can do on your own or in close discussion with your family, the easier it will be for all. Again, Hospice of the Golden Isles is always happy to work with our clients and families as they answer the important questions around preparing for your end of life. Contact us to learn more about our palliative and hospice care services.
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Copyright ©2020
Hospice of the Golden Isles.
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912.265.4735 | toll-free at 866.275.6801
1692 Glynco Parkway | Brunswick, GA 31525
501(c)(3) non-profit organization | License #GA063007H
Privacy Policy 
Copyright ©2020 Hospice of the Golden Isles.
All rights reserved.

Members United Way of Coastal Georgia
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National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization Member