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How to Plan Ahead When a Loved One Receives a Terminal Diagnosis

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how_to_plan_for_terminal_illnessFinding out a loved one is entering the final stages of life is undoubtedly overwhelming. Close family members are often left making funeral arrangements, all the while coping with anticipatory grief.

But making preparations before a loss can provide comfort during this challenging time. By discussing your loved one’s preferences on healthcare choices and final wishes, you can chart a course which otherwise feels shapeless and uncontrolled.

Continue reading below as we discuss the steps to take when a loved one is nearing end of life, so you can focus on spending your last days, weeks or months together in comfort.

1. Talk Through Final Healthcare Preferences

When you find out someone dear to you has a terminal illness or is nearing the end of their life, one of the most important first steps is a conversation about their final healthcare wishes.

Talking about death is uncomfortable and often taboo. But by talking directly about what’s happening, you allow your loved one to voice their personal concerns, desires and preferences regarding what time is left. Find out where your loved one prefers to receive care, what sort of treatments are preferred, what issues are still open, what has already been addressed and if there are any changes necessary. Not only does this help the person who is facing terminal illness, it alleviates stress for family and friends to know what directions to take.

2. Discuss Legal Arrangements and Documents

There are certain legal arrangements and documents you should be aware of as your loved one nears end of life.

Find out whether legal healthcare documentation is complete, what is still lingering and where those documents are kept. Keep in mind that a will is only a start, as several other legal documents can weigh into your loved one’s plans. For instance, a power of attorney, do not resuscitate order and organ donor designation should be considered.

Similarly, you should discuss what healthcare coverage options your loved one has. If your loved one or their spouse is still working, there is often coverage through a workplace employer. Older adults often have coverage for care through Medicare, and veterans can often receive care through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

3. Preplan Final Arrangements

We all want to be remembered in our own unique way. But if your loved one hasn’t documented their final wishes in writing, you may be unsure what they want after passing. This is where prearranging a funeral or memorial service helps.

You’ll want to discuss the following:

  • Preferences on final disposition method (ex: burial or cremation).
  • Desires for final resting place (cemetery, scattering location, special place of significance).
  • A preferred funeral home location for services.
  • The type of service (funeral, memorial, etc.).
  • Personalization preferences for services (ex: music, flowers, the outfit they wear, photos / videos displayed, etc.).

Your loved one’s final arrangements are a chance to honor their desires and celebrate a truly unique life lived. By making plans in advance, family members are relieved of difficult decisions during an especially emotional time.

Get More Guidance on Preplanning Final Arrangements

Facing the last part of life is painful and overwhelming in many respects. By talking things through and making arrangements, your loved one, friends and family members can find comfort and grounding.

For more benefits of preplanning final arrangements, we encourage you to download our free guide, Seniors’ Guide to Funeral Arrangements.

New call-to-actionEditor’s note: This post was submitted by Craig Meadows, the creator of Surviving Day One. Having dealt with three life-changing challenges in his life, he created the site to offer support to anyone going through a traumatic or difficult experience. When he isn’t working on his website, he works as an accountant and enjoys spending time with his family hiking and enjoying the outdoors.

Jim Busch
Jim Busch
Owner and president of our firm. Fourth generation funeral director and certified crematory operator, Jim is guided by his principles in faith, family and friends. He loves to hear feedback from our families. Proudly serving Busch families since 1986.

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