How Loved Ones Can Prepare for End-Of-Life Care

It is often extremely painful for loved ones in the final weeks or days of life. They don’t know what to expect, what to do, or how to talk about their feelings with others.

While you can’t fully prepare for end-of-life care, you can empower yourself by learning some common experiences people face. Here’s what you need to know.

Plan Ahead for End-Of-Life Care

It may seem morbid, but having a plan in place is one of the best ways individuals and loved ones can prepare for end-of-life care. Scrambling at the last moment can cause excess stress and conflict.

If your loved one has explicitly expressed their end-of-life wishes, you may already know what you need to do. But if they haven’t, it may be time to start having those challenging discussions.

Planning ahead can include several components, such as:

  • Organizing and understanding finances.
  • Preparing for relocating homes.
  • Researching care team options.
  • Coordinating needs with other family members.

Understand Key Logistics

Along with planning, you will need to start getting logistical affairs in order. Here are some terms you should know.

Advanced directive: Advanced directives are legal documents that specify end-of-life requests. If your loved one has already prepared one, this document can mitigate future confusion or conflict.

Living will: Living wills specify which treatments an individual consents to if dying or rendered permanently unconscious. These wills may consent (or prohibit) aids like tube feeding, organ donation, breathing machines, and resuscitation.

Durable power of attorney: for health care: This document states an individual’s health care proxy, the representative who makes health decisions on their behalf.

Living trust: Living trusts specify a designated trustee to manage an individual’s assets and estate. This can help reduce the process of probate after their death.

Palliative care: Palliative care refers to specialized medical treatment for people with severe illnesses. Palliative care is intended to improve the individual’s overall quality of life.

Hospice: Hospice refers to medical care intended to support people with terminal illnesses. Hospice accepts death as the final part of life, but it aims to make the process as comfortable and safe as possible.

Prepare for Emotional and Physical Changes

While death is inevitable, each journey to death is inherently unique. Some people will have a sharp, rapid decline. Others experience a slower progression.

With that in mind, some common changes include:

  • increased fatigue and sleeping more often.
  • eating and drinking less (and losing weight)
  • social withdrawal and having a difficult time talking.
  • staying in bed and not wanting or being able to get out.
  • increased levels of pain.
  • body temperature fluctuations.
  • disorientation (depending on their condition).
  • congested, heavy breathing.
  • hallucinations and delusions.

Unfortunately, these changes can be frightening and uncomfortable for loved ones. That’s why, many times, the grief process actually starts long before the death. As a result, you may be mourning the “old version” of the person you love.

These feelings are normal, and it’s essential to seek support and take care of yourself during this time.

Why Taking Care Of Yourself Matters

If you’ve been in a caregiving role, you may have significantly sacrificed your time, energy, and resources to care for your loved one. As the end-of-life inches closer, you may find yourself feeling increasingly depressed or panicked. In some cases, you might also experience some relief.

Regardless of your emotions, it’s crucial that you focus on taking care of yourself during this time. You can’t only focus on the other person- neglecting your well-being can have dire consequences that impact everyone. 

Self-care starts with recognizing your needs. For example, when was the last time you asked for help when you genuinely needed it? When was the last time you gave yourself grace and freedom to take a well-deserved break?

Self-care also entails making time for other priorities and desires. For example, no matter how much you care about your loved one, you are only one person. It’s impossible to entirely devote yourself 24/7 to someone else’s care, and taking on that mindset is a surefire path towards burnout.

Self-care often represents a journey of trial and error. You will need to discover what works best for you to cope with different stressors. But keep trying! The more you recognize and honor your needs, the more present you will be in life (and the more helpful you will likely be to other people!).

Final Thoughts

Having to prepare for end-of-life care may seem like a daunting task. That said, getting ready in advance may be one of the best gifts you offer yourself and your loved one.

It’s okay to feel uncertain or sad during this vulnerable time. Therapy can offer support and guidance. Even if we can’t logistically improve the situation, we can harness greater levels of peace and acceptance.

I am here for you right now. Contact me today to get started.

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759
(512) 988-3363

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