What is the last, best gift you will ever give someone you love?
A new car? A diamond ring? A Mediterranean cruise?
Sure, those would be nice. But that’s not exactly what I had in mind. In fact, the last, best gift you will ever give someone you love is practically free but it comes with this warning: this gift may make a lot of you uncomfortable.
This gift is an end of life plan.
Wait! Please don’t hit the back button yet. Take a minute to imagine how much easier those last few weeks, days, moments of your life will be for everyone if you give them this gift.
An end of life plan ensures that no one has to make any of those terrible decisions — intubate, put in a feeding tube, unplug. the ventilator. No one has the responsibility for deciding how you live or if you live or if you die.
Your final gift makes all that clear. If you have a couple of hundred dollars, let a lawyer put the package together for you. If you don’t, there are a few simple forms that you can download from the Internet, fill out and make it so much easier for those you leave behind.
So, what’s in an end of life plan?
- Advance Directives ensure that patients have more control over their care and families are spared the guilt of trying to guess what their loved one’s last wishes might have been.
- A Living Will is one of the most critical pieces of an end of life plan. This document lets you appoint someone to speak for you when you can’t. That person is not making life or death decisions for you; they are simply verifying your wishes and honoring your last request.
- A Last Will & Testament - every adult should have one of these. It clearly delineates who gets what when you die. Without a will, you die “in testate” and the state usually gets more than its fair share of anything you owned including bank accounts, homes, insurance.
- An Executor - this person is pivotal to seeing that your wishes are carried out and that your will is executed as written.
- A Durable Power of Attorney – less common but a truly powerful document that allows the person you appoint to have legal and financial standing for you and stays in effect after your are disabled or unable to speak for yourself.
All these documents lay the groundwork for ensuring that your end of life wishes are granted. But there is one more thing that has to take place to make sure this happens. This may just be the hardest part of creating an end of life plan.
You have to talk to your spouse, your parents and even your children about how you feel about the end of life and what you want.
Sharing your wishes with your family in a face to face conversation is not easy but it is necessary. Don’t think you will be able to handle the talk? Need some tips on getting started? This is just one of the things that a hospice can help with.
Some hospices have classes and provide education for caregivers and patients. Some even have one-on-one meetings to help people get their affairs in order. Many of the forms and resources needed to help families discuss and document their preferences regarding end of life care are available on hospice websites like Caring Connections.
Creating an end of life plan is not easy but it may just be the most important plan we undertake.
So, this year, if you really want to give the last, best gift, put down the travel brochures, stop looking at diamond rings and resolve to let a caterer cook your holiday feast. Make this one, last plan and give your loved ones the last, best gift — peace of mind.