It has been said that life is a journey, not a destination. So it makes sense that in our last days, on our final journey, we should strive to have a good one--a bon voyage.
While talking about end of life issues--particularly our own--can sometimes be uncomfortable, the best way to make sure that your end of life wishes are honored is to lay them out in writing and make sure that your loved ones are aware of them. Don't miss the opportunity to have a bon voyage--take the opportunity to set out your end of life wishes and take control of your journey.
Unfinished Life Matters
Sometimes so much focus is placed on the medical and legal aspect of dying that the personal aspects get brushed aside. However, the reality is that it is much easier to have a bon voyage if you are happy or at least satisfied when you depart. This involves taking care of loose ends and putting things right where necessary. Personal matters to consider include--
**Saying things you need to say to loved ones, friends, and others, such as "I'm sorry." "I forgive you." "Thank you." "I love you." "Goodbye."
**Determining whether you may need psychological, emotional, spiritual care, counseling, or other support.
**Writing a personal legacy or story, telling any life lessons or outlining your hopes and dream, as well as leaving any helpful advice, for loved ones.
**Creating a "bucket list," outlining any things you would still like to accomplish or setting out any goals of for your remaining medical care.
Funeral arrangements are very personal and options vary widely--from in-ground burial, mausoleum burial, cremation, as well as other possibilities. Some planning and logistical questions include--
**Do I want to donate my organs for transplant or donate my body to science?
**Which funeral home/mortuary do I want used?
**What are my feelings regarding embalming, burial, cremation, casket, burial location?
**Who should be notified of my passing?
**Who will write my obituary and what should it say if you are not writing it yourself?
**What do you envision for a funeral--a church service, a party or dinner, a memorial service?
**Will you pre-pay your funeral expenses or where will funds be held?
**Do you want to specify a charity or other cause "in lieu of flowers"?
Medical And Legal End Of Life Paperwork
A complete estate plan typically involves the documents identified above as well as a pour-over will, a revocable living trust (RLT) or an irrevocable Medicaid asset protection trust (MAPT), power of attorney for finance, and deeds and memoranda regarding personal property. In particular, questions related to medical and/or legal arrangements include--
**Do you have a will and possibly a trust? When is the last time you looked at these documents and thought about their provisions? Do the provisions reflect your current wishes and desires for distribution of your personal and real property, as well as your other assets?
**Do you have a Living Will? Does it state your wishes regarding the type and extent of medical treatment you want in the event that you can no longer speak for yourself?
**Have you made your feelings known about matters such as "Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)" orders or your feelings on CPR? What are your feelings on palliative care and natural death? What are your feelings regarding breathing tubes (intubation) and feeding tubes? A Living Will allows you to record your wishes regarding organ donation, pain relief, funeral, and other advance planning matters. It is an important source of guidance for your health care agent.
**Have you executed a Durable Power of Attorney For Healthcare? Have you also selected a Health Care Proxy? Have you specified an alternative proxy in case your first choice is unable or later unwilling to act as proxy? A health care proxy is a designated decision-maker who will make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated and cannot make decisions for yourself. Your health care proxy should be someone with a strong personality; someone who will fight for you and your wishes.
Thinking of end of life matters can be uncomfortable and challenging, but most things are easier when we have some control over them. Expressing your wishes and making affirmative decisions regarding end of life matters will hopefully allow you to have a peaceful departure and a bon voyage.